Comparing regulatory processes in genome editing and autonomous vehicles: How institutional environments shape sociotechnical imaginaries

Meghna Mukherjee*, Konrad Posch, Santiago J. Molina, Ken Taymor, Ann Keller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study compares the regulation of two emerging technologies, the CRISPR genome-editing system and Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) in the United States. The study draws on 33 in-depth interviews with innovation and governance experts to study the relationship between their regulatory environments and developing beliefs about these technologies. Using sociotechnical imaginaries as a framework, we explore how social actors envision technologically driven futures and the social order that enables them. These imaginaries are essential to emerging technologies, where experts build a framework of potentialities for innovation still underway. While scholarship has documented how sociotechnical imaginaries arise among policymakers, groups of scientists, state and local stakeholders, and public actors in different countries, less has been said about how regulatory organizations and their actors shape expectations around technologies that are in the early and middle stages of development. This article finds that regulatory institutions shape emerging imaginaries along three related axes: the distribution of authority, technological novelty, and risk. Interviewees negotiate these three contingencies differently based on relevant extant regulatory structures and ideologies, resulting in distinct imaginaries around each technology. CRISPR actors envision genome editing as largely diminishing biomedical harm and eventually suitable for health markets, while CAV actors diverge on whether self-driving cars alleviate or exacerbate risk and how they may enter roads. That organizational structures and practices of regulation inform broadly held sociotechnical imaginaries bears significance for studies of innovation trajectories, suggesting regulators can take an active role in shaping how risks and benefits of emerging technology are defined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalReview of Policy Research
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • connected and autonomous vehicles
  • emerging technologies
  • gene editing
  • regulatory environments
  • risk
  • sociotechnical imaginaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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