Public Communication of Technological Change: Modest and Less Modest Witnesses

  • Per Hetland
Keywords: modest witness, popularization, technological change, expectations, Internet


When journalists popularize a highly topical new technology, such as the Internet, they situate their popularization within technological expectations; when researchers popularize it, they situate their popularization within both a retrospective and prospective understanding of technological change. Following this, journalists are inclined to appeal to emotionally involved users or pioneers, and researchers are inclined to appeal to responsible citizens. Hence, journalists immodestly dramatize the future by boosting a new technology or turning its risks into threats, while researchers acting as “modest witnesses” pour oil in troubled waters, indicating skepticism about the journalistic approach. Consequently, the technology popularization field is structured in two dimensions: from public appreciation of technology via public engagement to critical understanding of technology in public, and from expectation-based argumentation to research-based argumentation. 



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