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Accepted Paper:

The social construction of genome-editing technologies in the conference agora  
Fiona Coyle (University of Edinburgh )

Paper short abstract:

[…] conferences are the places where the community learns the etiquette of today's truth (Collins, 2004). This paper explores the social construction of genome editing technologies in the conference space and asks whether narratives established surrounding technologies influences their moral status.

Paper long abstract:

The social construction of technology has been widely debated in field of STS, with social constructivists arguing that human action shapes technology (Pinch and Bijker, 1984). However, descriptive perspectives on the ethics of genome editing have not adequately addressed the mechanisms by which the morality of these technologies are socially constructed and culturally embedded. My paper gives special attention to the issue of the social construction of genome editing technologies. With specific focus on the role academic conferences play in establishing the ethical parameters of the genome editing debate, generating a shared grammar and rhetoric surrounding these technologies and providing a template for how these technologies should be constructed and communicated in the public sphere. This work is based on my in-progress PhD data collection, including a scoping study where I collected fourteen hours of non-participant observation and five hours of digital recordings from key conferences, as well as 'material sources' produced and distributed by the conference organisers. In order to show how genome editing technologies are socially constructed in this space, I will discuss how the combination of visibility, performance and space - intrinsic to the conference agora - gives rise to new narratives and boundaries surrounding genome editing technologies. In conclusion, by closely examining the role of the conference agora in facilitating the construction of new narratives pertaining to genome editing technologies, this paper raises new questions surrounding the issue of how the framings of new and emerging scientific technologies can impact biotechnology debates.

Panel C27
Recombining life: sociotechnical intersections in the making of genome editing
  Session 1