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See detailSociology, Risk and the Environment: A Material-Semiotic Approach
Wong, Catherine UL; Lockie, Stewart

in Journal of Risk Research (2018)

Sociology has made significant contributions to the conceptualisation of risk and critique of technical risk analysis. It has, however, unintentionally reinforced the division of labour between the ... [more ▼]

Sociology has made significant contributions to the conceptualisation of risk and critique of technical risk analysis. It has, however, unintentionally reinforced the division of labour between the natural/technical and social sciences in risk analysis. This paper argues that the problem with conceptualisations of risk is not a misplaced emphasis on calculation. Rather, it is that we have not adequately dealt with ontological distinctions implicit in both sociological and technical work on risk between material or objective risks and our socially-mediated understandings and interpretations of those risks. While acknowledging that risks are simultaneously social and technical, sociologists have not, in practice, provided the conceptual and methodological tools to apprehend risk in a less dualistic manner. This limits our ability both to analyse actors and processes outside the social domain and to explore the recursive relationships between risk calculus, social action and the material outcomes of risk. In response, this paper develops a material-semiotic conceptualisation of risk and provides an assessment of its relevance to more sociologically-informed risk governance. It introduces the ideas of co-constitution, emergent entities and enactment as instruments for reconciling the material and social worlds in a sociological study of risk. It further illustrates the application of a material-semiotic approach using these concepts in the nuclear industry. In deconstructing social-material dualisms in the sociology of risk, this paper argues that a material-semiotic conceptualisation of risk enables both technical and social perspectives on risk not only to co-exist but to collaborate, widening the scope for interdisciplinary research. [less ▲]

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See detailOrganisational risk perception and transformations in India’s nuclear establishment
Wong, Catherine UL

in Journal of Risk Research (2015), 18(8), 1012-1029

The discourse on nuclear power and risk has shifted over the last few decades from security concerns emanating from nuclear weapons to threats to public safety in the event of industrial nuclear accidents ... [more ▼]

The discourse on nuclear power and risk has shifted over the last few decades from security concerns emanating from nuclear weapons to threats to public safety in the event of industrial nuclear accidents. While the main focus of exist- ing scholarship has been on public risk perceptions, comparatively little is known about organisational risk perceptions and the factors that influence organ- isations’ willingness to accept the incalculable risks of nuclear power. This paper provides insights into how the nuclear establishment in India thinks about risk. Drawing on interviews with the senior management of nuclear organisations, the analysis shows that organisational risk perception is not merely a human con- struct or the outcome of simple technical cost-benefit rationalities. It is the result of interactions between material and ideational conditions of risk. These condi- tions are expressed through three core organisational narratives: (1) the growth imperative, (2) technological nationalism and (3) faith in systems and technol- ogy. While there is generally a strong consensus on these narratives within and among the nuclear organisations in India, the data also show that organisations are not homogenous entities. Instances of self-critique and reflexivity exist which could open new spaces for change towards a more inclusive organisational dis- course on nuclear risk in India. [less ▲]

Detailed reference viewed: 93 (2 UL)