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Wednesday 6 April 2011 at 16:30 - 18:00 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDIES


SB / PGx Saukko, P.


THAI THEATRE Loughborough University


Autoethnography of a whole genome test: Some methodological observations and Baudrillardian conclusions


Commercial online whole genome tests 'decode' your genome for various disease risks and ancestry. They have been hailed as revelatory and criticised for being misguiding in, for example, journalists' and a few academics' accounts of their personal experiences of the tests. I present an 'autoethnography' on having a whole genome test. My goal is both methodological (to develop autoethnography) and topical (to make sociological sense of genome tests). In interpreting my experience against previous accounts and social science literature on new genetics I will outline four principles of autoethnography: (i) being critically reflexive of the cultural discourses that constitute one's experience, (ii) situating one's experience, (iii) tapping into dimensions of reality, such as emotions, often bypassed in academic writing, and (iv) connecting the individual experience to the general or social. I experienced the test as mildly entertaining. I kept forgetting my disease risks (too many) but enjoyed exchanging emails with my 'relatives' the database identified, some of whom originated from the same village as my mother. My experience resonates with Baudrillard's notion of consumption of information in terms of bemused indifference. I argue that medical sociology would benefit from sociology of consumption in making sense of medical products becoming consumer culture. This would help in making sense of how this development biomedicalises culture as well as dilutes the seriousness of the products.


Tutton, R.J.C. Expectations, Performativity and the Marketing of Personal Genomics


Scholars working in the sociology of expectations argue that expectations are 'performative' in attracting the interest of necessary allies such as investors, regulators and users and bringing them together into a shared vision or agenda for a particular scientific innovation or technology. The marketing of direct-to-consumer personal genomics services is an interesting case to consider from the perspective of this work since, unlike other controversial developments such as xenotransplantation, stem cell research and biobanking, it has developed in a scientific and regulatory environment that has been largely hostile to this industry being established. Looking at personal genomics through the lens of the sociology of expectations, this paper examines how, although industrial actors, investors, analysts, bloggers and others have articulated some clear expectations about this technology and the market for it, they have been less successful in attracting the interest of some necessary allies, most notably regulators and medical professionals who have hotly contested the vision of personal genomics as a service without healthcare professionals as gatekeepers and with no premarket approval by regulators. Drawing on analysis of a range of corporate and policy documents and materials, this paper contends that personal genomics companies have not successfully shaped 'either the regulatory environment or the social environment in such a way that it supports their [..] product' (Hedgecoe 2004). Why has this been the case? What strategies did the companies follow when developing their products and services? And what was the nature of the opposition that they encountered in various countries?


Calvert, J. New forms of collaboration? Synthetic biology, social science, art and design


Synthetic Biology aims to construct novel living systems, and redesign existing ones for useful purposes. What makes it particularly interesting is that diverse groups including social scientists, ethicists, lawyers, policy makers, artists, designers and publics are becoming involved in the field from the outset. This paper explores a subset of these new forms of collaboration, by drawing on data from the 'Synthetic Aesthetics' project, which brings six artists and designers together with six synthetic biologists in reciprocal embedded residences. A feature of synthetic biology that lends itself to these kinds of collaborations is the desire to make biology into a product of design choices, rather than evolutionary pressures. These design choices could include industrial, political and aesthetic concerns. Importantly, if something is designed then this gives rise to questions such as: For what purpose is it designed? And, who is it designed for? These questions bring in values and politics, and open up the field to broader discussion. This 'opening up' is also an aspiration of many social scientists working in synthetic biology. Social scientists, artists and designers have much in common in this sense: they are actively engaged in forging new collaborations with synthetic biology, they aim to critically interrogate the science, and they are concerned with exploring implicit assumptions and possible alternatives to these. The paper ends by evaluating the project's on-going attempts to develop new forms of collaboration, to provide new spaces for cooperation and debate, and to promote critical reflection on all sides.


Cockerton, C. London School of Economics and Political Science Joining the club (or not): how the iGEM competition enrolls a next generation of synthetic biologists


Synthetic biology seeks to turn living material into an engineer's substrate, something composed of modular, well- characterised biological parts that can be used to design and build novel, functional devices and systems. Working to achieve the lofty ideals that this field envisions, over the last five years or so, the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) has been employed as a key mechanism through which to educate and inspire a 'next generation' of researchers. My ethnographic work followed two iGEM teams as they faced a challenge to design and


115 University of Edinburgh Lancaster University


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