Tag: biotechnology

Finding a ‘Home’ Online

An oft-repeated mantra in scholarship on privacy is that you have the greatest expectation of privacy inside of your home, and the least expectation of privacy in public. What this means is that you can legitimately assume what happens inside your home will stay in your home (to use a phrasing usually connected with visits to Las Vegas). But if people can view or hear an event or occurrence, whether you are having an argument on your cellphone or you trip, fall, and people can see it without technological assistance, you cannot reasonably believe that what happened will remain ‘private.’ This perspective permeates law and how cases involving privacy and the use of personal information are resolved. But in an era in which many people live their lives online where some much is publicly accessible, what does the concept of home mean and how should it influence how we view privacy? (read more...)

Animal Sex Work

Crouched beneath a stallion’s hot undercarriage, bearing the weight of a two-foot long sterile tube on my shoulder as the horse thrusts into it, I vocally encouraged him to ejaculate along with a team of human handlers dedicated to the business of equine sperm. “Come on, boy,” we all chirp, “don’t stop now!” This particular kind of human-assisted animal sex is repeated all spring and summer long at equine breeding facilities across the globe. The proliferation of Artificial Insemination (AI) techniques and technologies over the past two decades has revolutionized the equine breeding shed, making it possible to produce offspring from two horses with no physical, or even geographical, proximity. As recently as fifteen years ago, performance horse breeders imported actual horses from Europe, Russia, or South America to improve the American strains of particular breeds. Now it is possible to breed American mares to international stallions without either party leaving home. New industries and technologies have been created to collect, package, freeze, and transport equine semen; state, federal, and international laws govern the movement of semen across political borders; and a whole branch of equine veterinary medicine concerned with reproduction—theriogenology—has swelled to accommodate the growing need for professionals to supervise encounters like the one I described above. (read more...)

What Educates in DIYbio?

The Pedagogical Paradox Two human inventions can be regarded as the most difficult, — namely, the art of government and that of education; and yet we are still contending among ourselves as to their fundamental nature. – Immanuel Kant Kant here is referring to the pedagogical paradox presented by education. This paradox of moral authority most often occurs in the context of schooling: How does education, in the sense of external regulation), lead to the internally regulated autonomy of thought and action? Stated more generally, the pedagogical paradox is assuming the existence of something for which education is the precondition. For example, can someone declare oneself to be a biologist and launch an independent course of inquiry without recognized credentials? The pedagogical paradox is also a question of legitimate knowledge; in this case, who may speak the truth of biology? (read more...)

When is the Amateur in Amateur Biology?

Over the last two years I have been conducting research into amateur biology in and around Silicon Valley. During that time, I have worked as a volunteer in a DIYBio lab and on a pair of laboratory projects, one an unlikely precursor to the Glowing Plant project and another which fell into the dust bin of scientific history. Which is to say, for every project that captures media attention and attracts funding like Glowing Plant, there is an equally interesting project struggling to generate interest and find collaborators. With that in mind, I want to discuss some of the tensions within DIYbio laid bare by success of the Glowing Plant Kickstarter campaign. (read more...)


EMERGENT TECHNOLOGIES, FUTURE PUBLICS In keeping with the 2013 AAA meeting theme of ‘Future Publics, Current Engagements,’ this double panel brings junior and senior scholars into dialogue in order to explore how current engagements with (bio)technologies shape attitudes, behaviors, and subjectivities, and thus affect—or have the potential to affect—future publics and future bodies in meaningful ways. This panel, which we intend to submit for Invited status, is being co-organized by the Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) special interest group of the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) and the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology and Computing (CASTAC). A number of senior scholars have agreed to contribute papers and serve as discussants on this panel. We are currently soliciting abstracts for 3-4 ‘open’ slots on the panel. While we encourage potential participants to think broadly – and critically – about this topic, preference will be given to abstracts that complement (read more...)