Expectations and the Emergence of Nanotechnology

Cynthia Lea Selin

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Although nanotechnology is often defined as operations on the 10–9 meters, the lack of charisma in the scale-bound definitions has been fortified by remarkable dreams and alluring promises that spark excitement for nanotechnology. The story of the rhetorical development of nanotechnology reveals how speculative claims are powerful constructions that create legitimacy in this emerging technological domain. From its inception, nanotechnology has been more of a dream than reality, more fiction than fact. In recent years, however, the term nanotechnology has been actively drawn toward the present to begin to deliver on the fantastic expectations. This debate over time and timing is loaded with paradox. This work examines how future claims work to define what counts as nanotechnology and reveals dilemmas that accompany temporal disjunctures. Science and politics converge in debates about the future of technology as expectations serve to create and enforce power and legitimacy in the emerging area.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience, Technology & Human Values
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)196-220
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Expectations
  • Nanotechnology
  • Time
  • Innovation
  • Emergence

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