“Tiny new ingredients are a big concern”. The popularization of nanotechonologies in environmental organizations’ and institutions’ publications


The chapter sets out to explore how nanotechnology is popularised in online reports and brochures in English issued by European and American institutions and environmental organizations. Nanotechnologies, by manipulating matter at a nanoscale, have a great impact on several disciplines and find applications in sectors such as medicine, engineering, electronics, food, and renewable resources. Given the repercussions on humans’ daily life, many information campaigns have been launched in order to disseminate nanotechnological knowledge to lay people. Different forms and media have been exploited as in other knowledge dissemination processes, with the new media and Web 2.0 playing an important role (Garzone 2007). If knowledge dissemination has been often seen in terms of a “recontextualization” (Calsamiglia, Van Dijk 2004) and a “translation” (Gotti 2013) of specialized information from experts to non-experts as opposed to specialized discourse (Ciapuscio 2003; Calsamiglia, van Dijk 2004; Minelli de Oliveira, Pagano 2006; Kermas, Christiansen 2013; Bongo, Caliendo 2014; Garzone 2014; Gotti 2014; Bathia et al. 2015; Salvi, Bowker 2015), it is nonetheless true that this transfer of information often goes beyond the aim of making exclusive knowledge more comprehensible to the generic public. As a matter of fact, popularized discourse frequently aims “to inform, raise awareness and cause the reader to take action” (Gotti 2014, p. 29). A striking example is for instance health discourse (Cummings 2004, 2005, 2009; Hall 2006). Therefore, this chapter intends to analyse how specialized concepts pertaining to the domain of nanotechnology are popularized in online institutions’ and environmental organizations’ reports and brochures in English and in Italian. With the former emphasizing the advantages and the latter the risks of nanoscience, a common point they share is, however, their concern with the diffusion of nano knowledge and its related vocabulary. More specifically, the analysis, based on Calsamiglia and van Dijk’s classification of five “types of explanation” (2004, p. 372), will identify the discursive strategies adopted.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v40p23

Keywords: nanotechnologies; popularisation; discourse analysis


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