Accepted Paper:

Openness in the material practices and performances of biohackers  


Rosen Bogdanov (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Paper short abstract:

This study looks at the peculiar approach to open science by several biohacking and do-it-yourself biology groups. It analyses the co-construction of a digital microfluidics device and the open governance of possible futures in biology whereby entire ecosystems are digitally engineered or automated.

Paper long abstract:

Biohacking is considered an emerging phenomenon in technoscientific cultures and a particularly genuine one to their "democratization". Biohackers have been involved in developing instrumentation under open licenses, providing open access to their methods and data (on collaborative platforms and in usable formats), or interacting with both industry and citizen stakeholders. What distinguishes them from the current workings of open science is their particular framing of openness as exogenous and subversive to traditional scientific practices, and the building of legal and organizational infrastructures that underline such a framework.

This study looks at the construction of a digital microfluidics device, and such peculiar takes on open science issues, by different biohacking and do-it-yourself biology groups. The analysis comes out of an ethnography of European biohackers at several events and spaces, and discusses how openness is both, constructed, and practiced in normative and material terms through the cases of the "Bio-commons" license and the "Digital biology society".

These, and other, socio-technical frameworks in biohacking usually start as playful practices of tinkering with artefacts, transformed into hacking field-trips and unconventional workshops, and become part of the development of corresponding infrastructures. In particular, the biohackers' take on digital microfluidics is enacted as a question on the open governance of possible futures in biology, whereby entire ecosystems are engineered or automated on digital artefacts and platforms.

Panel T061
Open science in practice