Accepted Paper:

Bodies in translation: the shaping of epistemological congruence in bioresearch  

Author:

Stefano Crabu (Politecnico di Milano)

Paper short abstract:

This paper contributes to the on-going debate on the emergence of translational biomedicine, introducing the notion of technomimicry to theoretically capture the cognitive, social and material strategies involved in the translation of materials and information across laboratories and clinics.

Paper long abstract:

This paper, based on ethnographic research conducted in a major Italian institution specialising in cancer care and research, contributes to the on-going debate on the emergence of translational biomedicine. In the presentation, I will unfold the clinical and research laboratory practices performed around an experimental protocol designed to develop a biomarker to support the personalisation of treatments for patients suffering from colorectal cancer.

In particular, it will pay special attention to how the patient's living body involved in the experimentation process is configured as an 'experimental subject'. I will argue that the experimental subject is shaped through the relationships between human agents and technologies, differently localized across bench and bedside. These sociomaterial relationships imply the coordination and epistemological congruence between laboratories and clinical settings, in order to translate laboratory facts into clinical activities, and clinical evidence into researchable issues. In order to theoretically capture the ways in which the epistemological congruence is performed, I propose the notion of technomimicry. Technomimicry, in its dual acceptation in the clinical and experimental sense, allows to understand the cognitive, social and material strategies involved in the translation of materials and information across scientific laboratories and clinics. Specifically, clinical technomimicry highlights how the laboratory itself can be reframed to render scientific phenomena congruent with the clinical management of patients. Similarly, experimental technomimicry puts into light how the clinic itself can be reconfigured as a research terrain where patients are enrolled not only for care purposes, but also as participants in biomedical research activities.

Panel T031
Topographies of clinical translation: charting novel sociotechnical landscapes within and around biomedical research.