The “Nasty Effect:” Online Incivility and Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies

Authors

  • Ashley A. Anderson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, University of Wisconsin-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale
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  • Dominique Brossard,

    1. Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale
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  • Dietram A. Scheufele,

    1. Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale
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  • Michael A. Xenos,

    1. University of Wisconsin-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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  • Peter Ladwig

    1. Department of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale
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  • Accepted by previous editor Maria Bakardjieva
  • Paper forthcoming in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

  • All correspondence regarding this manuscript should be addressed to the first author in the Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Mail Stop 6A8, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA, 22030 ph: 703-993-8368; e-mail: aander24@gmu.edu.

  • This material is based upon work supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to the UW-Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale (Grant No. SES-DMR-0832760). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Abstract

Uncivil discourse is a growing concern in American rhetoric, and this trend has expanded beyond traditional media to online sources, such as audience comments. Using an experiment given to a sample representative of the U.S. population, we examine the effects online incivility on perceptions toward a particular issue—namely, an emerging technology, nanotechnology. We found that exposure to uncivil blog comments can polarize risk perceptions of nanotechnology along the lines of religiosity and issue support.

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