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Envisioning Emerging Nanotechnologies: A Three-Year Panel Study of South Carolina Citizens


Dr. Susanna Priest, Department of Communication, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., MS 3D6, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA;


This article reports results from a three-year panel study of a nonrandom sample of 76 South Carolina citizens, recruited from a variety of walks of life, and their impressions of emerging nanotechnology. This discussion focuses on material from depth interviews conducted alongside a baseline opinion and awareness inventory at the beginning of the study, the most intensive data-gathering phase. These results are placed in the context of data from three additional surveys conducted at about equal intervals over the three years, plus exit interviews from 21 of the 34 individuals who completed the entire study. The results give insight into popular thinking about technology but little indication of strong emerging concerns, a trajectory of amplification of those concerns, or opinion polarization over time, despite some awareness of risks and potential ethical dimensions. Nanotechnology may stand out more as an example of risk attenuation than of risk amplification, consistent with most results from national surveys.