Wellcome Unit Seminar 10/03/14

Join us for the last seminar of term!

At: The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
Seminar Room, 47 Banbury Road, Oxford

Coffee is available from 2.00pm – Seminars begin at 2.15pm prompt

‘Medicine and Media’
Conveners: Dr Amelia Bonea and Dr Cressida Jervis Read

Week 8 – 10 March
Adam Burgess, University of Kent
Looking Back at a Media Risk Campaign: The Case of Mobile Phones and Masts
It’s fair to say that science and medicine has become embroiled in numerous risk-related controversies in recent years, some of them quite uniquely UK-centred, like the MMR/autism alarm. These are controversies with their own histories and actors, and I’d like to take a retrospective look at another; the health concern about mobile phones and masts which, whilst not uniquely British, was particularly intense in this country. I’ll focus on what I still think is interesting, and find myself still raising about the experience: why the media decided to campaign so determinedly around the issue, and how this allowed an otherwise marginal concern to become a focus for health concern among the public. I will also consider the relatively strong and precautionary political reaction and how it sometimes managed to increase public concern. I will discuss the comparative international differences in how concern developed, or not, and, finally, the reasons why it eventually (and thankfully!) became uninteresting to journalist, politician and public alike – even in the UK.

Dr Burgess is Reader in Social Risk Research at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent. He has previously lectured at Brunel, Bath and Reading and Westminster universities.

He is associate editor of the European Journal of Risk and Regulation, co-editor of Sociology Compass and is on the editorial board of Health, Risk and Society. He is also vice president of the Risk and Uncertainty (CG04) stream of the International Sociological Association and a research associate of the Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the London School of Economics.

He is interested in the range of ‘Risk Studies’; non-economic research into how risk and uncertainty is understood and reacted to by individuals, institutions and society. Much of his research adopts a comparative approach either across different hazards, different nations or different historical periods.

Selected Publications:

  • Cellular Phones, Public Fears and a Culture of Precaution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Manufactured Uncertainty over Manufactured Sweeteners: the Curious Case of Aspartame, European Journal of Risk Regulation
  • Risk, Ritual and Health Responsibilisation: Japan’s ‘Safety Blanket’ of Surgical Face Mask Wearing (with Mitsu Horii), Sociology of Health and Illness 34
  • ‘Nudging’ Healthy Lifestyles: The UK Experiments with the Behavioural Alternative to Regulation and the Market, European Journal of Risk and Regulation