Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Biobricks and Crocheted Coral: Dispatches from the Life Sciences in the Age of Fabrication

  • Sophia Roosth (a1)
Argument

What does “life” become at a moment when biological inquiry proceeds by manufacturing biological artifacts and systems? In this article, I juxtapose two radically different communities, synthetic biologists and Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef crafters (HCCR). Synthetic biology is a decade-old research initiative that seeks to merge biology with engineering and experimental research with manufacture. The HCCR is a distributed venture of three thousand craftspeople who cooperatively fabricate a series of yarn and plastic coral reefs to draw attention to the menace climate change poses to the Great Barrier and other reefs. Interpreting these two groups alongside one another, I suggest that for both, manufacturing biological artifacts advances their understandings of biology: in a rhetorical loop, they build new biological things in order to understand the things they are making. The resulting fabrications condense scientific and folk theories about “life” and also undo “life” as a coherent analytic object.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Andrianantoandro, Ernesto, Basu, Subhayu, Karig, David K., and Weiss, Ron. 2006. “Synthetic Biology: New Engineering Rules for an Emerging Discipline.” Molecular Systems Biology 2:114.
Asaro, Peter. 2007. “Heinz von Foerster and the Bio-Computing Movements of the 1960s.” In An Unfinished Revolution? Heinz von Foerster and the Biological Computer Laboratory, 1958–1976, edited by Müller, Albert and Müller, Karl H.. Vienna: Edition Echoraum.
Bernauer, Hubert. 2005. SYNBIOLOGY: An Analysis of Synthetic Biology Research in Europe and North America. Literature and Statistical Review. European Commission Framework Programme (FP6). Final report by NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology): FP6-2003-NESTB4 Project 015357 - SYNBIOLOGY.
Bhutkar, Arjun. 2005. “Synthetic Biology: Navigating the Challenges Ahead.” Journal of Biolaw & Business 8 (2):1929.
Church, George M. 2005. “Let Us Go Forth and Safely Multiply.” Nature 438 (7067):423.
Cooper, Melinda. 2008. Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Creager, Angela. 2002. The Life of a Virus: Tobacco Mosaic Virus as an Experimental Model, 1930–1965. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Daston, Lorraine, and Galison, Peter. 2007. Objectivity. New York: Zone Books.
Davis-Floyd, Robbie, and Dumit, Joseph, eds. 1998. Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots. New York: Routledge.
Doyle, Richard. 1997. On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life Sciences. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Duster, Troy. 2003. Backdoor to Eugenics. New York: Routledge.
Dyson, Freeman. 2007. “Our Biotech Future.” New York Review of Books 54 (12):2429.
Forster, Anthony C., and Church, George M.. 2007. “Synthetic Biology Projects In Vitro.” Genome Research 17 (1):16.
Fortun, Michael. 2008. Promising Genomics: Iceland and deCODE Genetics in a World of Speculation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Foucault, Michel. 1971. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Pantheon Books.
Franklin, Sarah. 1997. Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception. New York: Routledge.
Franklin, Sarah. 2007. Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy. Durham: Duke University Press.
Franklin, Sarah, and Ragoné, Helena, eds. 1998. Reproducing Reproduction: Kinship, Power, and Technological Innovation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Gibson, Daniel, Benders, Gwyneddet al. 2008. “Complete Chemical Synthesis, Assembly, and Cloning of a Mycoplasma Genitalium Genome.” Science 319 (5867):12151220.
Ginsburg, Faye, and Rapp, Rayna, eds. 1995. Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Goodman, Alan, Heath, Deborah, and Lindee, M. Susan, eds. 2003. Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and Science Beyond the Two-Culture Divide. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Haraway, Donna J. 1997. Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge.
Haraway, Donna J. 2003. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm.
Hartouni, Valerie. 1997. Cultural Conceptions: On Reproductive Technologies and the Remaking of Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hayden, Cori. 2003. When Nature Goes Public: The Making and Unmaking of Bioprospecting in Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Helmreich, Stefan. 1998. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Helmreich, Stefan. 2010. “How Like a Reef: Figuring Coral, 1839–2010.” In Party Writing for Donna Haraway, a Webfestschrift, edited by King, Katie (commissioned by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi), http://reefhelmreich.blogspot.com/ (last accessed October 12, 2012).
Jacob, François. 1993. The Logic of Life: A History of Heredity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Kay, Lily. 2000. Who Wrote the Book of Life? A History of the Genetic Code. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. 1995. Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-Century Biology. New York: Columbia University Press.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. 2000. The Century of the Gene. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. 2008. “Organisms, Machines, and Thunderstorms: A History of Self-Organization, Part One.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 38 (1):4575.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. 2009. “What Does Synthetic Biology Have to Do with Biology?BioSocieties 4 (2):291302.
Kelty, Christopher, and Landecker, Hannah. 2004. “A Theory of Animation: Cells, L-systems, and Film.” Grey Room 17:3063.
Kelty, Christopher. 2008. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham: Duke University Press.
Kohler, Robert. 1994. Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Landecker, Hannah. 2007. Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Laubichler, Manfred. 2000. “The Organism is Dead. Long Live the Organism!Perspectives on Science 8 (3):286315.
Lentzos, Filippa. 2009. “Synthetic Biology in the Social Context: The UK Debate to Date.” BioSocieties 4 (2):303315.
Mackenzie, Adrian. 2010. “Design in Synthetic Biology.” BioSocieties 5 (2):180198.
O'Malley, Maureen A. 2009. “Making Knowledge in Synthetic Biology: Design Meets Kludge.” Biological Theory 4 (4):378389.
Pickering, Andrew. 2010. The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Pottage, Alain. 2006. “Too Much Ownership: Bio-prospecting in the Age of Synthetic Biology.” BioSocieties 1 (2):137158.
Purnick, Priscilla E.M., and Weiss, Ron. 2009. “The Second Wave of Synthetic Biology: From Modules to Systems.” Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 10 (6):410422.
Rabinow, Paul. 1999. French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rabinow, Paul. 2006. The Biological Modern. Concept Note. Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory, February 2. http://anthropos-lab.net/documents/concept_labor/the-biological-modern (last accessed October 12, 2012).
Rabinow, Paul. 2009. “Biopower, Dignity, and Synthetic Anthropos.” National Humanities Center's On The Human Forum. 8 June. http://onthehuman.org/2009/06/biopower-dignity-synthetic-anthropos/ (last accessed October 12, 2012).
Rabinow, Paul, and Bennett, Gaymon. 2008. “From Bioethics to Human Practices, or Assembling Contemporary Equipment.” In Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activism, and Technoscience, edited by Costa, Beatriz da, 389400. Cambridge MA: MIT Press/Leonardo Books.
Rader, Karen. 2004. Making Mice: Standardizing Animals for American Biomedical Research, 1900–1955. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Reardon, Jenny. 2004. Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ro, Dae-Kyunet al. 2006. “Production of the Antimalarial Drug Precursor Artemisinic Acid in Engineered Yeast.” Nature 440 (7086):940943.
Roosth, Sophia. 2010. “Crafting Life: A Sensory Ethnography of Fabricated Biologies.” Ph.D. diss., Cambridge MA: MIT.
Rose, Nikolas. 2007. The Politics of Life Itself. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Shapin, Steven. 1988. “The House of Experiment in Seventeenth-Century England.” Isis 79 (3):373404.
Stevens, Hallam. 2010. “Life Out of Sequence: An Ethnographic Account of Bioinformatics from the ARPANET to Post-Genomics.” Ph.D. diss., Cambridge MA: Harvard University.
Strathern, Marilyn. 1992a. After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Strathern, Marilyn. 1992b. Reproducing the Future: Essays on Anthropology, Kinship, and the New Reproductive Technologies. New York: Routledge.
Sunder Rajan, Kaushik. 2006. Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Taylor, Peter, Halfon, Saul, and Edwards, Paul, eds. 1997. Changing Life: Genomes, Ecologies, Bodies, Commodities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Thacker, Eugene. 2004. Biomedia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Thacker, Eugene. 2005. The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Thompson, Charis. 2005. Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Thompson, Edward Palmer 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past & Present 50:76136.
Varela, Francisco, Maturana, Humberto, and Uribe, Ricardo. 1974. “Autopoiesis: The Organization of Living Systems, Its Characterization and a Model.” BioSystems 5:187196.
Wade, Nicholas. 2010. “Synthetic Bacterial Genome Takes Over a Cell, Researchers Report.” New York Times May 21:17.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 49 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 401 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 26th May 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.