TOFU: Traveling of Framed Facts and Uncertainties

Injections with nano-compounds that ‘manipulate’ our pears, flames from the drinking water tap due to hydraulic fracturing, a whole new weapon-arsenal based on synthetic biology, are but three examples of influential images of contested technologies. Engaged citizens, experts, politicians, industry and others defend, develop or despise technologies in passionate ways. They frame facts and uncertainties in accordance with their values and beliefs. Especially in the age of social media and other internet technologies these images travel across the world, and some become pervasive images. These can hinder or contribute to the responsible development, societal acceptability, and democratic governance of innovative technologies.

This research is financed by NWO MVI and is a consortium of drupal expert Triquanta, process-expert WING, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). The research team consists of AIO Efrat GOmmeh, post-doc (tbd), Prof. dr. Huub Dijstelbloem(UvA); Prof. dr. ing. Karin Schroen (WUR), dr. Tamara Metze (WUR, projectleader), dr. Sylvia Karlsson-VInkhuyzen, and action-researchers from the RIVM and PBL.

The project aims to better understand and democratize the mechanisms underlying so termed TOFUs (travelling of framed facts and uncertainties). In order to improve responsible research and innovation, we develop two digital tools to study, reflect on, and experiment with TOFUs, and their governance. We will co-create these reflective tools with stakeholders of possibly controversial technological innovations in the transition to sustainable energy and to sustainable food.

The tools are:

(1) the ‘TOFU-crawler’ to map networks of TOFUs, and to analyze how they travel, which become dominant, and what governance strategies of national, international and transnational actors are to cope with these TOFUs.

(2) The digital ‘dashboard of imagination’ that is a reflective instrument to help industry, governmental actors, activists and NGO’s, but also scholars in responsible research and innovation to improve their interactions by addressing the TOFUs more explicitly and reflectively to enhance democratic technological innovations.