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Accepted Paper:

Experimenting with real-time science: Exploring time in a synthetic biology collaboration  
Sally Atkinson (University of Exeter) Susan Molyneux-Hodgson (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

Working with experimental audio-visual data and ethnographic description, we examine how assembled and reassembled notions of time, futures and innovation are imagined and mobilized in everyday laboratory practices in a cutting edge synthetic biology collaboration.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper we draw on experimental audio-visual data to examine and represent concepts of time, future and innovation in a synthetic biology collaboration. Synthetic biology has emerged as a space of techno-scientific futures. Such spaces are fundamentally undefinable, becoming associated with limitless potential to address a range of critical global challenges from antimicrobial resistance to the secure production of bio-fuels. As the synthetic biology community continues to evolve it is moving from the space of possibility to the realization of large-scale industry-academic collaborations, where technological promises are brought to mainstream market production. It is in this context of a national industry-academic project that we examine notions of time, future and innovation in the everyday practices of synthetic biology.

Working with ethnographic descriptions and laboratory videos, we examine how assembled and reassembled notions of pasts, presents and futures are used to situate everyday experimental practice. Drawing on anthropological discussion around the assemblage of the contemporary, we consider how existing imagery of engineering and design are re-purposed toward the future of sustainable 'green' bio-production. Such futures involve planning and practices which evoke different kinds of tempo and temporal spaces. Thus, we re-examine innovation, moving away from a focus on speed and progress to acknowledge the other forms of time and tempo which are critical to the process of experimentation in future oriented cutting-edge science.

Panel P164
Technologies, futures and imaginaries
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -