Broadening the lens for the governance of emerging technologies: Care ethics and agricultural biotechnology

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Abstract

In this paper we argue that insights from feminist perspectives, particularly in the form of an ethics of care, have a number of advantages when used as a lens through which to consider questions relevant to the governance of emerging technologies. We highlight how an emphasis on central themes of importance in feminist theory and care ethics such as relationality, contextuality, dependence, power, affect, and narrative can shine a light on a number of salient issues that are typically missed by the dominant and largely consequentialist risk assessment frame. We argue that the care ethics lens is a better fit when technologies are understood not simply as devices designed to create a certain end experience for a user but as transformative systems that smuggle in numerous social and political interests. The advantages of these care ethics themes for emerging technologies are illustrated through a detailed consideration of agricultural biotechnology. We show how the feminist care ethics lens might have anticipated the very questions that have proved themselves to be the sticking points for this technology. We therefore suggest that applying a care ethics lens can significantly broaden the frame of appraisal processes used for the governance of emerging technologies and usefully grant legitimacy to questions and concerns that are prominent in public discourse but typically left out of practices of risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalTechnology in Society
Volume45
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Keywords

  • Agricultural biotechnology
  • Emerging technology
  • Feminist care ethics
  • Risk assessment

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