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



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This paper demonstrates how risk assessment facea serious challenges for evaluating and governing emerging technologies.

It then argues 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 the governance of emerging technologies. Firstly, it argues 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. It then highlights how an emphasis on central themes of importance in 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. The advantages of a care ethics lens are illustrated in detail through an exploration of the case of agricultural biotechnology. Here the analysis shows how the care ethics lens could have anticipated the very questions that have proved themselves to be the sticking points in the debate over this technology.

The paper concludes 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.

Preston, C. and Wickson, F. (2016) “Broadening the lens for the governance of emerging technologies: Care ethics and agricultural biotechnology” Technology in Society 45:48-57.