The project maps out the social and organizational networks involved in the development of technological innovations in the food sector which have sensitive implications for the environment. It explores the degree to which public concerns over environmental risks and consumer risks are complementaTy or contradictory through the analysis of the arguments used by social actors in the controversies around these technological innovations. An investigation is made of the potential for greater integration of environmental and technological issues in a complex and diverse economic sector. The aim is to assess the scope and prospects for public participative arenas to shape technological change toward sustainability.
The project will investigate a series of recent public debates about the technologies of food production in the European Union and their implications for the successful promotion of environmentally sustainable technological paths.
It integrates two areas of recent research interest: risk controversy arenas and technology &
innovation networksThe project will address its attention to how the intersection between risk controversy arenas and technology & innovation networks represents a potential space for the shaping of technology towards societal objectives such as sustainability.
The framework is applied to the analysis of a complex sector the food production system - which is characterised by significant environmental impacts and a highly sensitive consumer context. An investigation will be made of a selection of cases of visible controversy around food production technology. A specific technological innovation will be selected in four technological areas representing different points in the food system for investigation in each participant country: UK, Denmark, France, Spain. The countries were selected to represent differences in the food sector and in consumer and environmental activity Four of the cases will also be investigated at European level (Commission and Parliament).
For each innovation a technology & innovation network and a risk controversy arena will be mapped out using a network mapping methodology derived from social network theory. This identifies social actors and depicts them diagramatically to systematically reveal actor characteristics and relationships. Following the network mapping stage of the investigation an analysis of situated discourse will be carried through the identification of arguments used in each of the networks by actors concerning the benefits and risks of the technological innovation. The argument structure will be analysed through examination of texts and interviews with key actors.
The results of the investigation will enable an assessment to be made of the connections between risk controversies and technological innovation within the food sector.
Particular attention will be directed to the actors who function as 'links' or 'intermediaries' between the public debates on risk and the innovation process within the business. Conclusions will then be drawn as to the current status of arenas for social influence over technological change and future options for governmental and non-governmental actors within them.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
28903 Getafe - Madrid
YO1 5DD York