Accepted Paper:

Surveilling zygotes: Knowledge produced by time-lapse incubators  


Sandra P. González-Santos (Universidad Anahuac)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at knowledge production in action. Specifically, it looks at how embryologists are making sense of the visual data time-lapse incubators are producing, how they articulate it to makes sense of embryo development, and at how this information justifies specific actions.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2010, a new embryo cultivating technology has been introduced that allows close monitoring of embryonic activity: the time-lapse incubator. This surveillance machine has a built in camera that takes pictures of the embryo every 5 to 15 minutes, allowing embryologists to monitor the embryo's developmental path. For example, they can count the number of cells the embryo has divided into in each stage and measure the pauses between each cell division. These images have created new sorts of datum that embryologists are just starting to make sense of; for example, what does it mean if there is a longer or shorter pause between two cell division moments?

In this paper, I look into the way embryologists are making sense of the data this machine produces. For this I take inspiration from Latour's Science in Action (1987) to look at three sites where knowledge regarding time-lapse incubators is being produced and distributed: (1) the websites of the incubator manufacturers, (2) conferences and workshops where embryologists present and discuss their experience using these incubators, and (3) the scientific literature that has emerged from the use of these machines. In each of these sites I will look for the ways in which the use of this technology is justified and how the data it produces creates justifications for specific actions.

Panel T109
Emerging forms of "life" in STS