Friday, October 12, 2007

Live from Montreal at the 4S

I'm here at the 4S (Society for the Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting) in Montreal. I've enjoyed a number of nano-related talks thus far.

Brigitte Nerlich, from the University of Nottingham, gave an interesting talk earlier today on images of the nanobot. Her answer to the question, "why is the image of the nanobot perpetuated in popular culture?" is that there are numerous images of nanobot to choose from -- meaning that when media outlets want to publish some kind of nano-image, they often license an image from an image firm. Well, if the firm has a preponderance of nanobot images, it follows that media outlets will be more likely to select them, right? Though the supply-and-demand argument was not the focus of Nerlich's talk, it is the taken for granted assumption behind it.

Nerlich did more of a content analysis (using both quantitative and qualitative methods) of nano-related images available for license at Science Photo Library (, a leading science image firm. She found that of 363 nano images, 128 were of nanobots. Of those 128, most were fantasy and artistic renderings.

Some of Nerlich's findings include:
1- most images are positive and/or utopian while very few are negative and/or dsytopian.
2- many nanobots had some kind of pincer, claw, or hand.
3- backgrounds of renderings tended to reflect blood, space, or the sea.


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