Sublime technology and object of fear: offshore wind scientists assessing publics
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEnvironment and planning A. 2015, 47 (5), 1047-1062. 10.1177/0308518X15592311
The development of offshore wind energy is often connected to expectations that the public will be positive about or at least indifferent to the technology. Because turbines are placed at sea—out of sight, out of mind—they are expected to avoid the public resistance experienced with respect to onshore installations. This paper examines offshore wind scientists’ constructions of the public(s) by identifying narratives in the research communities. It is based on twenty-six semistructured interviews with scientists at two national research centres on offshore wind energy and technology in Norway. It finds that, although the dominant narrative of these scientists conveys a positive public, expectations of public resistance and constructions of public sentiment as NIMBY (‘not in my backyard’) are present in the research environments. This continued presence of narratives of irrational public resistance in the scientists’ imaginings could be understood as an act of othering the public, with the possible implication of a disembedded technology development. The paper concludes by asking whether the persistence of constructions of resistant publics mirrors a pessimistic engineering mindset.