Egenis Seminar with Professor Michael Lynch “Administrative objectivity, forensic databases, and the exceptional status of forensic DNA evidence”
SpeakersProfessor Michael Lynch, Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
University of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJRoom no: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:30 - 5:00 PM
Abstract: Forensic DNA evidence increasingly is described as having an exceptional factual status – as an objective standard for assessing error rates of other ‘subjective’ forms of evidence. In the 1990s, following a decade of testing in the courts, and after numerous technical and administrative “fixes” that obviated or circumvented previous sources of criticism, DNA evidence attained its current exceptional status in courts of law. The present paper argues that, first, this status is particular to the legal domain and, second, that the presumed objectivity of DNA evidence is bound up with systems of administrative accountability. This administrative objectivity rests upon observable and reportable bureaucratic rules, records, recording devices, protocols, and architectural arrangements designed to assure the courts of the reliable and “scientific” status of the evidence presented in court. By highlighting administrative sources of objectivity, this analysis (re-)places “DNA” within the context of ordinary organizational and practical routines, and encourages a more sober view of the transcendent truth often attributed to that form of evidence.