Monday, April 13, 2009

Risk and Enivironment as Discourses of Technology

In the article Risk and the Environment as Legitimatory Discourses of Technology, Brian Wynne discusses the concerns with the highly quantitative and reductive critique on risk assessment. Risk assessment can be known as the objective evaluations of the uncertainties and assumptions that risk promote. The evaluations and assumption that are presented are then examined and considered.
Wynne discusses the technological discourses in which lack of full control in the technologies instrumental culture is normal and can lead to unpredictable consequences. Some of theses technological controversies include the Challenger and World Trade Center tragedies and have been seen in ambiguous way in the results and consequences developed by technology. Belief of public knowledge for policy needs to be not only true but very clear even if this results in the harsh truth (460). The environmental and risk critiques of the past years have reviewed the constitutive organizations that are known to be the guardians of the public interest when dealing with science and technology. Because of the complex relationship and interaction of humans and nature there seems to be a great deal of ambiguity and openness of meaning with the issues of technology and epistemic scientific knowledge.
The problem with risk and the environment, which tie into the culture of technology, produce essential challenges to human subjects. As a result we cannot ignore these self-reflexive public issues buried in our discourses (471). Wynne mentions that the responsibility of the SSK (sociology of scientific knowledge), is to highlight the risk and environment consequences cultures as well as to welcome democratic ingress. They criticize or at least question the reality of problems with risk and issues on the environment.
The article proposed a way of using democratic and environmental influence over science and cultural technology. Wynne suggests that as long as simple- realist cultural blinkers continue to decrease our attention on the questions of consequences, we will only keep waiting a proposal of democratic reflexive politics that will help provide technology humanly and environmentally sustaining (473).

1 comment:

  1. This article was incredibly dense, so it is probable that I've missed quite a bit, but I came away from it with quite a different final message than you appear to have gotten from Mr. Wynne.

    What I took to be his primary point is that the focus on the proliferation of knowledge of risks and possible negative outcomes of technological advances, with the examples of the World Trade Center and Challenger, obscures the possibility for public input into the opposite end of the scientific process: invention.

    It seems that Wynne is arguing that democratic input into the purposes of technological innovation will lead to more sustainable development, which makes perfect sense to me when put in more colloquial terms: If I had a voice in what direction car manufacturers went in with the 2010 model year, I would want models that didn't produce stuff that is poisonous to me. Instead, we get a political discourse that focuses on allowable amounts of pollution on the back end of car production, rather than one that asks us what the purposes of producing a certain type of car is, and caters to the purposes that would be most beneficial to people. A discourse like this could possibly result in improved public transport, rather than less polluting personal vehicles, since the purposes of progress follow the needs of people rather than trying to limit risks and consequences of innovations that have already been produced.