Ontology in modernity risks
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Societal security is a concept of increasing significance. It is tightly connected to risk, since both concepts deal with the future. The understanding of risk is crucial in risk assessment, because it constitute the basis for legislation, control and regulation. Ontology is essential, because different ontological foundations will be materialized in different understandings of risk, risk assessment, risk management and thus appear as different ontological foundation for societal risk governance. Thus my research questions are “What is the significance of ontological foundation in risk science? How does relational ontology impact risk assessment and risk management?” In socio-technical research, objective or subjective ontology dominates. Relational ontology often is absent, which contributes to reductionistic risk assessment. Modernity risks are, however, a relational phenomenon, and must be understood accordingly. Analysis of the theory of the Risk Society illustrates how different ontologies capture different aspects of modernity risks. Clearly the relational aspect is “visible” by revealing the structuration between the structure and actor; where the structure is internalized in the actor, while the actors produce and maintain the structure. Modernity risks are the products of structuration. This has implications for risk assessment and risk management by connotations to risks. Connotations are a product of structuration and constitute different building blocks with patterns of thoughts about risks which are established by objective physical and social structures, subjective preferences and relational structuration. The size and content of the building blocks connotations consist of depend on what risks are involved and constitute a pattern which is socially constructed and appear as implicit guidelines for how to assess and manage risks. Connotations are thus important to make explicit and understand the constructions of societal regulation and control and to understand the production of modernity risks, which can appear as a result of inadequate connotations of risk. The interesting processes are therefore elements that lie behind and beyond the explicit expressed. These elements are relational and thus have to be assessed in a relational ontology to capture the structuration. Research which catches the structuration can elaborate and make visible the structuration and thus increase the consciousness for how risk appears, as well as the construction of risk assessment and risk management. Of special interest are connotations for important decision-makers in society, which influences the societal risk governance. Connotations as a relational phenomenon are thus essential in risk science. In brief, ontological foundations in risk science are crucial guidelines for how to understand risk, develop risk assessments, and advance risk management. The relational ontology can capture the structuration between the structure and the actor, and uncover connotations of risks. This can extend the knowledge of how certain risk assessments are constructed and how they affect risk management. For further research there is a need to empirical investigate the significance of connotations in risk assessment, and to develop methods of uncovering these connotations.
Master's thesis in Risk management and societal safety