Keywords: nanotechnology, converging technologies, media discourse, news framing, division of labour, sociotechnical order, Italy, collective belief, rhetoric, biotechnology, information technology, cognitive sciences
Ordering technology, excluding society: the division of labour and sociotechnical order in images of converging technologies
The convergence of nanotechnology with bio- and info- technologies and cognitive sciences (NBIC) and its discourse has been analysed mostly in terms of the dramatic social change that can possibly be induced, the disarticulation of the present sociotechnical order that can consequently be caused and the adjustments of societal and institutional arrangements that are considered necessary to cope with this transformative potential. The literature has paid less attention to the possible role of converging technologies (CT) and their discourse in reproducing the existing sociotechnical order and, in particular, a specific pattern of the current division of technoscientific labour that is consistent with the so-called technocratic logic in the relations between technoscience, government and society. Analysing the Italian daily press coverage of selected applications, we illustrate that the CT media discourse supports indeed such a division of labour, which assigns to scientists and technologists an almost exclusive social mandate to develop technologies and to decision-makers a supporting role, while there is little or no room for the public to discuss and be involved in R&D activities and science policy. The role of the collective belief in technical progress and of the rhetoric of technological promises in sustaining and legitimising such a division of labour is then examined.