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Reading nano: the public interest in nanotechnology as reflected in purchase patterns of books

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Schummer, Joachim

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Abstract Owing to a rapidly growing public interest in nanotechnology, people are increasingly buying various books to inform themselves about nanotechnology. This paper tries to measure the public interest in nanotechnology and its relation to the public interest in other fields of knowledge by applying a new method. I combine formal network analysis of co-purchase book data with traditional content analysis. The method is successful in identifying the books that the public reads to be informed about nanotechnology, and in distinguishing between different kinds and classes of books and thereby between different interest foci and readerships and their relations. The results suggest that nanotechnology is for many their first intense contact with science and technology and that they read a great variety of different kinds of books. Rather than choose general introductions to current research written by scientists or science journalists, readers focus on forecasting and visionary literature including business guides, written by software entrepreneurs and business consultants. Unlike expert readers, who connect nanotechnology to other fields of science and engineering, the broader public connects it to visions about dissolving the human/machine distinction. Although the distinction between non-fiction and science fiction is still important for readers, border-crossing authors increasingly blur it.
Document language English
Publication Year 2005
Page/Pages p. 163-183
Journal Public Understanding of Science, 14 (2005) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)