The Role of Visual and Participatory Media in the Social Debates about Stem Cell Research, GMOs and Robots- DRAFT UNDER PUBLISHING
This article, focusing on three technologies, aims to synthesize and compare the themes, empirical research, and overall findings of the literature about how visual and participatory media intervenes in contemporary public debates and controversies about emerging biotechnology, with a focus on stem cell research, GMOs, and robots. With the emergence of novel science communication formats and their incorporation of new media such as internet memes or live performances, for the purposes of this review visual and participatory media would have been impossible to separate from each other.
Two themes became evident in the review: 'nature', and 'future' as ideological anchors. GMOs are often depicted negatively, as a threat, embodying the boundary-crossing between human-nonhuman, and the potential of robots and stem cell research is overestimated. Images often depict a fantasy future as a present reality.
Such media exerts effects through various mechanisms: either through generating fear, sidetracking rational arguments, creating new imaginaries, or aiding understanding.
Overall, I claim visual and participatory media in these debates function as channels of political rhetoric: it helps situate actors, contests their legitimacy, or aids in gaining legitimacy. It transmits cultural scripts, such as identity elements or coping strategies. In some cases, it creates new ideas, and in some cases, it relies on and perpetuates already existing concepts.