There are two kinds of themes I’m looking at. The first set of themes consists of the discussion themes from the workshops. While most know issues around nanotechnology were touched upon in all workshops, in each session, a core theme seemed to emerge in addition. These themes could be summed up as follows:
– how to communicate forces at the nanoscale through symbolic materials / practices
– the precautionary principle and communication to the public
– ‘thinking in other dimensions’
– human desire for perfection/control
– ‘humans should focus on the natural side’/what is nature?
– ‘nano is overrated’
The other set of themes are the issues that I felt emerged from the workshops. These could be summed up as:
– what kind of influence did the materials have on the conversation-while-modelling e.g. did the hands-on activities enable different/new kinds of ideas?
– parallels of experimentation in workshops with scientific experimentation. I noticed that some participants came up with designs similar to the ones described in scientific publications they could not have known about (e.g. using Brownian Motion as part of a design rather than treating it as an obstacle). Could this method create a bridge between non-scientists and scientists in public engagements?
– the difference between the Mutable Matter ‘data’ and that of other public engagements with nanotechnology/new technologies in general. A lot of the data resembled that of other public engagements – similar themes (e.g. potential risks and benefits) were discussed. Some of the data that I could not find in other reports may have been edited out to meet policy-makers’ requirements. In the GM Nation? report some of these discussion themes were grouped and somewhat side-lined under the header ‘Non-material values’. Most other issues resembled questions that scientists and philosophers continue to ask such as. An example would be: what are we perceiving/what is really there and how does this affect our dealings with/design of nanotechnology.
– how can engagement with the topic be sustained?