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On the relationship between metaphor and technology : a comparative study on nanotechnology

Abstract : The dissertation presents an analysis of the social representations of nanotechnology in the various local (cultural) contexts of their medialisation and studies the relationship which exists between metaphorical structures and the evolution of nanotechnology controversies. The relationship depends on multiple contexts—social, political, cultural, and epistemic—where both actors (agents) and structures must to be taken into consideration to give an account of particular events and trajectories of mattering. Metaphors affect, in particular, imaginaries of the nanoscale and future expectations of benefits and risks, and they also provide a semantic link to narrative elements and storytelling. They have proved to be both supportive and restrictive to the development of nanotechnology. The data used in this study ranges between the years 1999 and 2015, using approx. two thousand articles from Web of Science, the European Commission (CORDIS), and Czech, French, and British national (print) media. By integrating two analytical approaches, metaphor-in-discourse and the ‘actantial’ model of narrative, the analysis focuses on matters of concern and related metaphorical patterns and structures. Accordingly, the study is followed by a critical approach to the implications of metaphor use and related transformations linked to the dynamic of discourse and nanotechnology development. The case studies reveal that metaphors have three capacities: activating, generative, and organisational. These are based on metaphorical concepts linked to narrative structures and discursive formations. The relationship between metaphor and nanotechnology is isomorphic and made of paradox. Metaphors create protected spaces for technology development, but they also represent a genuine resource to be exploited by inserting ambiguity into the social processes. In conclusion, the metaphor capacities and biases, sociotechnical convergence, and the plurality of ontological regimes are fundamental challenges for the assessment of nanotechnology.
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Pavel Kotlik. On the relationship between metaphor and technology : a comparative study on nanotechnology. History, Philosophy and Sociology of Sciences. Université de Strasbourg; Univerzita Karlova (Prague), 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019STRAB024⟩. ⟨tel-03137060⟩

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