Public evaluations of novel food technologies: a qualitative citizen-scientist deliberative discourse approach

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Greehy, Gráinne Maria
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University College Cork
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This qualitative research expands understanding of how information about a range of Novel Food Technologies (NFTs) is used and assimilated, and the implications of this on the evolution of attitudes and acceptance. This work enhances theoretical and applied understanding of citizens’ evaluative processes around these technologies. The approach applied involved observations of interactive exchanges between citizens and information providers (i.e. food scientists), during which they discussed a specific technology. This flexible, yet structured, approach revealed how individuals construct meaning around information about specific NFTs. A rich dataset of 42 ‘deliberate discourse’ and 42 postdiscourse transcripts was collected. Data analysis encompassed three stages: an initial descriptive account of the complete dataset based on the top-down bottom-up (TDBU) model of attitude formation, followed by inductive and deductive thematic analysis across the selected technology groups. The hybrid thematic analysis undertaken identified a Conceptual Model, which represents a holistic perspective on the influences and associated features directing ‘sense-making’ and ultimate evaluations around the technology clusters. How individuals make sense of these technologies is shaped by: their beliefs, values and personal characteristics; their perceptions of power and control over the application of the technology; and, the assumed relevance of the technology and its applications within different contexts. These influences form the frame for the creation of sense-making around the technologies. Internal negotiations between these influences are evident and evaluations are based on the relative importance of each influence to the individual, which tend to contribute to attitude ambivalence and instability. The findings indicate the processes of forming and changing attitudes towards these technologies are: complex; dependent on characteristics of the individual, technology, application and product; and, impacted by the nature and forms of information provided. Challenges are faced in engaging with the public about these technologies, as levels of knowledge, understanding and interest vary.
Novel food technologies , Citizen/ consumer acceptance , Attitude formation , Information processing , Risk communication , Deliberative discourse , Thematic analysis
Greehy, G. M. 2015. Public evaluations of novel food technologies: a qualitative citizen-scientist deliberative discourse approach. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.