Controversy Risk-O-Meter

Locate the risk discourse about your controversy in the web

Classified under Mapping Approaches (Digital epistemology), Tools Applied (Digital methods, Lippmannian device), Users (Journalists, Decision-makers)


The concept of risk is very often present in the spaces of technoscientific controversies. Even if from the technical point of view the concept of risk is independent from the notion of value and, as such, eventualities may have both beneficial and adverse consequences, in general usage the convention is to focus only on potential negative impacts that may arise from a future event. Which are the risks connected to the greenhouse effect? Are there any real risks for my family in relation to the spreding of swine flu? Which are the concrete risks associated to electromagnetic pollution and the use of phone cells networks? Questions like these populate the landscape of scientific and technological controversies, giving shape to the "risk society" described by sociologist Ulrich Beck (1992).

Here we won't concentrate on technical or definitional aspects of risks, but rather on the emergence of the discourse of risks and on its location on the web in a given controversy space.The exercise here proposed is aimed at providing a source of orientation for journalists and decision-makers who are interested in detecting and locating web sources of information which are particularly oriented to discuss and present the discourse of risk in relation to a given controversy.


The exercise is based on the use of the Lippmanian Device and on the results coming from an IssueCrawler


First obtain a list of relevant URLs related to your controversy. One good way of doing this is to obtain the list of URLs featured in an Issue map of a controversy you are interested in. You can search for an Issue map related to your topic in the Issuecrawler Archive and use the command "extract URLs". Another method consists in doing a Google search of your controversy, selecting the relevant hosts and de-selecting the advertisements.

The following steps are related to the use of the Lippmanian Device:

> Launch the Lippmanian Device Tool, by clicking here

> Set Maximum number of result to 1000

> Copy and paste the above text in the top box of the Lippmanian Devicethe list of URLs previously obtained

> Enter the keyword for your controversy and the keyword "risk" under quotation marks in the bottom box ("keyword risk")

> Press Scrape Google and wait for results (it usually takes from 3 to 10 minutes to the machine to produce the output, depending on the number of hosts investigated and on the "hotness" of your controversy)

> Once you get the results in the form of host cloud, all the links to the quotations are made available by the Lippmanian Device, so you are able to get to the sources of information.


Main question: where is the discourse of nanotechnology-related risk located in the web space of nanotechnology policy?


1. Extract all URLs from this bottom Issue Map. The map was obtained throught the Issue Crawler software

  • nanotechnology policy issue map obtained through the Issue Crawler? software.
  • nanotechnology_policy_issue_map.jpg
> The map allows to explore through a co-link analysis provided by the Issuecrawler tool the connections among sites which define the spaces of the Issue of nanotechnology policy in the Web.

> The list of all the URLs contained in the Issue map was obtained through the command "extract startingpoints and URLs" in the Issue Crawler "Network Manager" page (see picture below). Copy and paste the results under "URLs hosts in network" to the top box in the Lippmanian Device (aka Google Scraper) tool, and follow the steps reported in the above paragraph "Methods and tools", ordering the results of all hosts for each issue in the Tag Cloud box.

  • extract_URLs.jpg
The below word cloud is obtained, reporting the sources that are more concerned in reporting and discussing risk issues related to nanotechnology in the policy debate. For journalists this map proves to be a relevant a fast way of getting access to relevant information about risk when reporting about a given cotroversy. For Decision-makers is a way to quickly grasp and investigating, by visiting the top websites, the main risk issues related to a controversy.

  • nanotechnology_risk.jpg


Follow the methodology and use the tools suggested above in order to investigate the location of the discurse about risk in the case of the problem of flooding related to climate change.


Ulkrich Beck, (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. New Delhi: Sage (Translated from the German Risikogesellschaft, published in 1986).


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Attachments of PlatformRiskOMeter

I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment Attribute
extract_URLs.jpgjpg extract_URLs.jpg manage 177.5 K 20 Aug 2009 - 08:47 Andrea Lorenzet    
nanotechnology_policy_issue_map.jpgjpg nanotechnology_policy_issue_map.jpg manage 256.9 K 20 Aug 2009 - 08:26 Andrea Lorenzet    
nanotechnology_risk.jpgjpg nanotechnology_risk.jpg manage 245.6 K 20 Aug 2009 - 08:29 Andrea Lorenzet