International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology


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Program

WEDNESDAY, JULY 8  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-M280
Organized session / standard talks
Discussions about conceptual and epistemic issue in biohacking
Organizer(s):

Guillaume Bagnolini (Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III, France); Pascal Nouvel (Université Paul Valery Montpellier III, France)

The movement of biohackers and Do-it-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) can be described as the realization of scientific studies in biology outside the traditional scientific institutions. This approach is indeed unrelated to academic and industrial laboratories biology, and mostly developed on DNA experiments and other aspects of genetics. The biohackers defend some values such as sharing, equality, disinterest, and the common good. They inspired from the hackers’ movement in computing, and get some of their values from the hacker ethics defended by Stephen Levy and more recently by Turner and Coleman. Is this new science really different and possible ? The establishment of participatory and collaborative laboratory “La paillasse” in France proves this can be a reality. On which epistemic foundations is biohacking based? How can it change the relationships between society, research and the economy? The first paper of this session will present the recent history of biohacking and development at throughout the world (Guillaume Bagnolini). We will discuss with a philosophical and critical approach to the concept of free sharing defended by biohackers. Sarah Choukah will present her concept of "bioethnography" as a potential answer to the analysis of complicated issues. Sarah Choukah became involved as a member of Genspace, NYC's biotech community laboratory and NYC Resistor, a Brooklyn-based hackerspace, in order to know more about biohacking and hacking practices. In doing so she have come across several problems regarding the methodology and epistemology of ethnography in the social sciences. Her concept of "bioethnography" is based on Gilbert Simondon's philosophy of individuation.


The biohacking: A new scientific method?

Guillaume Bagnolini (Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III, France)

Citizen sciences are research programs carried out by scientific institutions in order to involve non-professional scientists in scientific studies.The movement of biohackers and Do-it-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) can be described as the realization of scientific study in biology outside traditional scientific institutions. This fairly recent movement emerged in Boston around 2008 from the work of several amateurs and students Those biohackers inspired from the hackers movement in computing some of the values they defend take their roots in the hacker ethics defended by Stephen Levy and more recently by Garbiella Coleman. The first meeting of DIYbio group gathered 25 people today, the association counts over 2600 members. In this review, I will discuss the philosophy of biohacking based on the history and ethics of biohackers movements. First, I would define and describe the idealistic view of biohackers and its evolution. Indeed, biohacking has grown from a political commitment towards a more playful and artistic vision. The movement induced a number of significant changes in society including the free movement of knowledge. They claim independence from both academic and corporate institutions and therefore rely mostly on open access tools. Morgan Meyer's work concludes that what characterize the DIYbio network is the creative workarounds of tools and places resulting in the production of more permeable boundaries between professional scientists and amateurs. In a second step, I will consider the free sharing defended by biohackers. What are the motivations leading to this gratuitous act? Is it a need for freedom? Is free biohacking really free? Based on the work of Haraway, I also describe and discuss the free participation of biohackers in this type of projects. I will eventually show the similarities of this movement with the epistemological anarchism developed by Paul Feyrabend in his book Against Method.


The biohacker as dislocated self

Sarah Choukah (Université de Montréal, Canada)

DIYbiology ("DIYbio") and "biohacking" can be approached as forms of collective action that dislocate the sites and practices that were home to the life sciences (away from the world of "big science"). These dislocations are conjugated with several critiques and suggestions for a renewed scientific and political ethos. I focus particularly on sites called "biohackerspaces" and "biomakerspaces", which emerged as embodiments of this renewed ethos. Since the founding of the first biohackerspaces back in 2010, these sites serve as a number of intersections where different disciplines, groups, protocols, people and off-the-shelf equipment converge. In searching for what makes these intersections so amenable to the kinds of projects they foster, I made an intersection of my own self as a researcher. Even before I became involved as a member of Genspace, NYC's biotech community laboratory and NYC Resistor, a Brooklyn-based hackerspace, I realized the best way for me to know about biohacking and hacking practices was to become my own lab monkey, so to speak. In doing so I've come across several problems regarding the methodology and epistemology of ethnography in the social sciences. My answer to these problems found its way in a methodology and epistemology I am tentatively calling "bioethnography". I borrowed its conceptual precursors from Gilbert Simondon's philosophy of individuation. This one cryptic sentence he wrote launched me into it: "Beings may be known by the subject’s knowledge, but the individuation of beings can only be grasped by the individuation of the subject’s knowledge". I propose we dwell on that intersecting thought together.