Participatory nanotechnology ethics: Join right in

Nanowerk reports on a new nanotechnology ethics database at IIT: NanoEthicsBank. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is their experiment with participatory tagging:

In conjunction with the fixed subject terms used in the NanoEthicsBank, we are also developing an experimental “folksonomy” tagging system for the database. A folksonomy is a user-generated taxonomy that uses open-ended labels or “tags” to retrieve material. Unlike a taxonomy with a controlled vocabulary that is developed in a top down approach (like the subject terms used in the NEB), a folksonomy is developed bottom up by the users of a resource. Some well-known examples of resources that use folksonomies are and Flickr. Some of the advantages of this system is that it bridges the semantic gap that exists between scholars the media, business professionals, and the general public. It also can adapt much more quickly to new developments, an important aspect when dealing with a subject as dynamic as nanotechnology. Some of the disadvantages include a lack of precision in terms and individuals adding irrelevant tags to material. We believe that using the NEB user tag folksonomy in conjunction with the subject terms helps with the former problem, and requiring a password from users who wish to add user tags will help solve the latter. To begin adding tags to the NEB, simply email us at [email protected] and we will send you the password.

So if you care a lot about nanotech ethics, here’s your chance to help out. Of course, you can also suggest articles for the database. It would be great if someone had time to send them a list of relevant material from the Foresight website, in addition to the Foresight Guidelines, which are already listed. (Credit: Meridian) —Christine

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