Two second-year CRDM students, David Gruber and Jason Kalin, won recognition at NC State’s university-wide Graduate Student Research Symposium on Friday, March 11th. David won first place in the Social Sciences and Management category and Jason won second place in the Humanities and Design category. Their titles and abstracts follow below. Congrats to the both of you for doing our program proud across multiple disciplinary categories!
Abstract: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has enabled neuroscience researchers to visualize patterns in the brain that can help them predict, with surprising accuracy, what a person is thinking (Hansen, et al., 2006; Haynes, et al., 2007). This fMRI research, known popularly as “brain-prediction” or “mind-reading,” initiated a flurry of news articles between February of 2007 and March of 2008. Often embedded with pictures from the science fiction film “Minority Report” and framed by fear-laced titles such as “German Scientists Reading Minds Using Brain-Scan Machines” (Fox News, 2007), these news articles demonstrated that not all fMRI advancements would receive the same amount or the same type of coverage in the media. Thus, this project examines how brain-prediction, as a particularly controversial fMRI research agenda, has been presented to the general public. Using verbal data analysis in conjunction with a critical rhetorical analysis, this project locates recurring grammatical features from a collection of popular news articles and then explores the rhetorical implications of those features in this context. Ultimately, this project concludes that the articles under examination display a pattern of distancing researchers from the negative future implications of the research and, through an over-reliance on non-human actors, promote a narrative of technological determinism.
Abstract: Increasingly sophisticated and economically feasible genome sequencing will likely help usher in an era of personal genetic medicine. Stephanie S. Turner (2005) argues that certain discourses surrounding genetic medicine exemplify what she terms critical junctures, which are “technological and cultural shifts that transform the idea of information” (p. 332). Turner identifies two critical junctures in genetic medicine, wherein the individual medical subject is neglected in favor of genetic information. However, given the advancement of genome sequencing, this study argues for a third critical juncture, wherein medical subjects are being reconstituted through genetic information as embodiments of their genes, and more importantly, as potentially in control of their genes. What becomes important is what individuals can do with their own genetic information. This study analyzes how the third critical juncture is being communicated in popular news sources to better understand how genome sequencing may be received by the public. Using discourse analytic techniques and rhetorical analysis, this study explores the technological, medical, and social consequences of genome sequencing, including its potential to constitute medical subjects thereby changing what it means to have a healthy body and to lead a healthy life. Indeed, the discourse of the news articles suggests that genome sequencing can be deeply unsettling because genetic information seems out of the individual’s control—which contradicts the claims made by genome-sequencing companies. Consequently, genome sequencing, because its results are still inconclusive, should be approached cautiously.