ESRC Seminar Series STS in Synthetic Biology: The triangle of design, engineering and STS in synthetic biology
VenueFaculty of Arts & Social Sciences Building Meeting Room 2, Lancaster, LA14YD
Anthropologists, sociologists, bioethicists historians and philosophers are certainly not the only outsiders in synthetic biology. Designers and artists are also actively participating in the shaping, making and mediating of synbio in various settings (e.g. 'Synthetic Aesthetics'). Conversely, it is not new for social scientists to find themselves next to engineers. Social scientists already work with engineers and scientists in other settings. Sometimes – for instance, at Intel or Microsoft – social scientists work with designers and engineers on a daily basis. Bearing this in mind rather than a simple one-to one relationship between social science and synthetic biology, the social sciences might find themselves in multi-lateral negotiations with designers, engineers and others.
With a view to exploring some of the dynamics and tensions playing out around synthetic biology and STS, this workshop will focus on the triangle of STS-design-engineering. The issues we will discuss will include:
- The question of speeds: design, engineering and sts all work at different rates. When speed is of the essence, what happens in the sts-design-engineering triangle? Is STS rather slow compared to, for instance, critical design?
- The question of liquidity: some things – ways of talking, ways of writing, ways of showing or telling – flow better than others in and around the triangle. What counts as 'better' in this setting is open to debate, but are STS ways of making sense as mobile?
- The question of engineering: if so much of STS has focused on the sciences and thinking about sciences, does synthetic biology require us to shift attention away from science as such to the more mixed realities of engineering, where design and science, knowing and producing, make more volatile combinations?