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Crafting the Biological

November 11, 2009



Sophia Roosth, a doctoral student at MIT, presented a talk at The Kennedy School of Government STS seminar series on 9 Nov 2009 called “Crafting the Biological: Open-Sourcing Life Science, from Synthetic Biology to Garage Biotech.

It’s a fantastic talk.  Sophia has been engaged in non-institutional biology at least since 2003, when she worked for Natalie Jeremijenko on the singular art / activist Biotech Hobbyist Magazine, and in her talk she presents her anthropological insight into DIYbio, richly contextualizing the social causes and effects of the movement.

Sophia talks about the practice of biology in terms of Knowing and Making. For DIYbiologists, she says:

“Knowing means a personal sort of knowledge, in which quotidian biologies like human bodies or the organisms you might encounter in a produce stand, for example, may be explored and modified. And Making is less about following engineering principles than it is about tinkering and making do, which I claim [DIYbiologists] do to destabilize what counts as legitimate scientific practice.”

“Biology, Knowing, and Making, are all concepts up for grabs at this moment in the life sciences (and in this talk). If what historian Philip Pauly called the ‘engineering ideal for biology‘ unfolded in the 20th century within institutionally-sanctioned spaces, then in the 21st we are witnessing synthetic biologists and self-described biohackers recasting the bioengineering project as malleable and explicitly domestic. Think of the personal computing revolution, but for biology.”

And that’s all in the first 5 minutes! Check it out. It’s great. (mp3)


Post a comment
  1. tito #
    November 11, 2009

    Loved the talk. I appreciated the attention to the bond between DIY and synthetic biology (Just last night I came across a “Biohacking” talk by Drew from back in 2007).


  2. mac #
    November 13, 2009

    Oops, the server hosting the MP3 of the talk is down right now… I’ll comment again when it’s back up.

    • tito #
      November 14, 2009

      just for reference, the MP3 is back up


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