“Nanotechnologies: where should they take us?” The popularization of nanosciences on the web: a discourse analytical approach


The study investigates a set of web texts dedicated to nanotechnologies with the aim to assess the strategies deployed for the transfer of specialized notions to lay audiences and to evaluate how the controversy potential of the issue on hand is managed by different stakeholders. The texts under scrutiny – EU web pages and web reports issued by the environmental organization Friends of the Earth - show a primary concern, at the lexical level, with the use of nanotechnologies: the use of is in fact, among the most frequent three-word clusters around the lemma nano. In environmentalist texts the topic is often associated with highly emotional topics, i.e. babies and food, while EU web pages underline a more informational and even beneficial view of nanotechnologies, as in the case of those used in medicinein the workplace, or already present in nature. This is confirmed also by the analysis of the interactional resources of metadiscourse (Hyland, Tse 2004), in particular hedges, boosters, and attitude markers are often called upon to support the writers’ credibility and affective appeals. Coming to the strategies adopted for the purpose of popularizing discourse “to manage its means so as to enable understanding and learning” (Calsamiglia, Van Dijk 2004, p. 17), the corpus of environmentalist reports shows that technical words very frequently used, such as titanium dioxydehydroxapatitetriclosan, or in vivo, are never defined, suggesting that a previous knowledge of the reader in the field of chemistry and biology is taken for granted. By contrast, texts in the EU section are characterized by plain language, while technical words are very few and, when present, thoroughly explained.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v34p31

Keywords: nanotechnologies; discourse analysis; popularization; metadiscourse


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