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Title: Lay sense-making and knowledge of biotechnology : its functionality and its limitations
Author: Tallett, Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0001 3496 7680
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis examines lay sense-making of biotechnological items, its functionality and its limitations, which, it is claimed, may have implications for biotechnological developments and how they are received. The theoretical approach taken to lay sense-making drew on social representations theory as an explanatory framework. This informed the aim to collect data on verbal and visual representation, and categorisation, of biotechnological items. Data was collected in three studies, through multiple sorting tasks and in-depth interviews with lay individuals in the UK, and field observation of mobilisation events and protests in the US. Methods used to analyse the data were multidimensional scalogram analysis, smallest space analysis, content analysis and thematic content analysis with data display. Representation and categorisation captured in the studies points to lay sense-making and knowledge of biotechnological items having a number of functions beyond understanding, and limitations beyond any scientific and technical knowledge-deficits of the kind suggested in ongoing surveys. Findings are supportive of previously reported findings suggesting that lay knowledge is complementary to scientific, regulatory and commercial knowledge sets. It is argued that limitations of and constraints on lay sense-making of biotechnological items are related to its rich functionality and its complementarity. Findings also suggest that lay engagement with and sense-making of biotechnology can be empowering for those involved, allowing lay people to take ownership of a concept and topic such as biotechnology that might very well affect areas of their lives. On the other hand, it is suggested that as lay people become more engaged with biotechnology, their agendas may also become more engaged, suggesting in turn that biotechnology may be progressively less likely to be judged on its own merits, or that developments may be increasingly stalled by negotiation of competing interests.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available