Lancaster EPrints

Design in synthetic biology

Mackenzie, Adrian (2010) Design in synthetic biology. BioSocieties, 5 (2). pp. 180-198. ISSN 1745-8552

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Abstract

Significant transformations in biological technique and biological work are taking place in the aftermath of genomics. Although existing accounts of genomics and biotechnology contend that species differences and evolutionary histories have undergone ‘flattening’ by molecular techniques and concepts, analysis of design practices in synthetic biology suggests that vertical aggregations of biological technique, substance and work are occurring. This article analyses the movement of design processes into biology by examining software, diagrams and forms of collaboration intersecting in the production of biological constructs such as metabolic pathways, minimal genomes and biological standard parts. In characterising the design processes taking shape in synthetic biology, it develops the concepts of ‘meta-technique’ and ‘meta-material’. The notion of design as a meta-technique shows how synthetic biology assembles techniques and renders them available via practices of collaboration and standardisation. The notion of meta-material suggests ways of thinking about the dynamism of living things infused by models, constructs and layered work-processes. The practical re-deployment of biological techniques we see in the design software, the development of increasingly extensive and interlinked biological constructs assembled by design, and the shifting enrolments of biological work associated with design as a decoupled work process alter what counts as biological work and what counts as biological substance. The increasing salience of biological design has significant implications for how we conceptualise participation in biotechnology and biomedicine more generally.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: BioSocieties
Uncontrolled Keywords: synthetic biology ; design ; technique ; materiality ; emergence ; new media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
ID Code: 55232
Deposited By: ep_importer_pure
Deposited On: 20 Jun 2012 09:38
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 20:36
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/55232

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