Frames of reference and the interpretation of values in the Dutch shale gas debate
Energy initiatives often lead to public contestation, even when all actors support the same underlying values. The reason for contestation can be found in different interpretations of these values. This causes a serious problem in the operationalisation of responsible innovation as this presumes a singular understanding of the values that underlie a new technology. This chapter analyses this interpretive flexibility of values in the Dutch shale gas debate. It concludes that the interpretative flexibility of values pertains to the spatial orientation of the stakeholders originating from the place attachment of different actors. Arguments presented in favour of or against shale gas exploration are connected to the expected effects of this exploration on local/regional spatiality or on the (inter)national spatiality. Arguments that are put forward in either of these frames of reference hardly connect to the other frames of reference. Due to the differences in spatiality of the arguments, a common reference point is lacking, which leads to confusion and miscommunication. This paper concludes that responsible innovation should acknowledge public values in all frames of reference in a symmetrical way. It is also essential to identify a common spatiality on which the discussion can fruitfully take place.