Upstream communication the integration of citizensconsumers in technological development

The so-called "upstream communication" approach, developed in Great Britain, attempts to involve the ordinary citizen and consumer in the communication process in order to early on address and sound out the substantial obstacles facing newer technologies (for example "green genetic engineering") that have arisen in Great Britain. The upstream communications process is based on the idea that the public acceptance of new technologies is often poorly developed121 and that new technologies ultimately require public acceptance. The concept "upstream" is perhaps a poor choice of words, as it could give the impression that essentially a one-way communication stream is intended. In principle, and the approaches in Great Britain support this view, the crucial aspect of creating discourse is integrating members of the community and consumers into the technological development process. Specifically, in Great Britain a citizens' jury (the Nano-Jury) was established; it developed its own assessments in dealing with nanotechnology (here predominantly nanoparticles). This lay assessment was intended to identify from the viewpoint of the average citizen what the future of nanotechnologies should be. The NanoJury called for the labeling of nano-products, so that a freedom of choice would exist, and furthermore the support of risk analysis research. These initiatives offer the possibility of achieving a new level of public engagement and feedback, which can assist in providing the regulatory authorities as well as business a certain degree of certainty with respect to direction.122

121 Regardless of acceptance, the knowledge of new technologies is also poorly developed. Macoubrie (2005), for example, points out that the public's knowledge and awareness of nanotechnology is almost non-existent. But at the same time, it is clear that there is no rejection in principle of new technologies (based on "nano"). Appraisals instead tend to be positive; however, safety plays a significant role in this context.

122 Cf. www.nanojuryFehler! Textmarke nicht; a similar project is being carried out in Germany by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) (UfU/IOW 2006).

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