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Technoscience and Risk Regulation: a Non-Trivial Relationship

Dr Karen Kastenhofer
Austrian Academy of Sciences

Date: 18 May 2010
Time: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
: CARR Seminar Room, G305


Emerging technoscience fields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and the new neurosciences are related to risk regulation at least in two ways: they are perceived of as sources of risk and hence debated and regulated as risk technologies; they contribute to evidence-based risk regulation with scientific knowledge production and expertise. This twofold relation between emerging technosciences and risk regulation proves less then trivial at a closer look. It is based upon integrating the realms of science, technology and regulatory politics in specific ways. The scientific quest to understand and represent, the technological quest to intervene and control and the regulatory quest to avoid harm while maximising benefits, are sometimes treated as distinct activities, in other contexts they are amalgamated in hybrid settings. Based upon an empirical analysis of technoscientific cultures (for the concept of epistemic cultures, cp. Knorr Cetina 1999, for the concept of technoscience, cp. Hottois 2004), the non-trivial relation between technoscience and risk regulation will be sketched in more detail. The presentation will draw on case studies in the contexts of biotechnology and mobile phone risk regulation. The impact of specific technoscientific cultures on regulatory politics and the impact of regulatory politics on the technosciences are discussed as a kind of 'displaced politics' and 'displaced epistemics' respectively.

About the speaker

Karen Kastenhofer studied biology and human ecology in Vienna and Brussels. The inter- and transdisciplinary character of human ecology drew her attention towards epistemological, sociological and cultural aspects of the life sciences. From 1999 to 2001, she took part in the research project 'Science as Culture' at the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research and Education (IFF) in Vienna and finished her PhD thesis on the enculturation of biology students in 2005. As post-doc research fellow, she contributed to the research project 'Cultures of Non-Knowledge' at the University of Augsburg. Since 2007, she is employed at the Institute of Technology Assessment at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.