Accepted Paper:

Bio-objectification and interdisciplinarity: the case of a Norwegian project on tissue engineering  


Maria Hesjedal (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines whether meetings in a Norwegian interdisciplinary research project on tissue engineering creates novel relations and collaborations. Using ethnographic methods, I explore how the process of bio-objectification plays out in the collaboration and digitalization in the project.

Paper long abstract:

In the last decade, concepts like bio-objects and bio-objectification have helped us understand how living matter is made into objects and how this may shift, question and destabilise the boundaries between human-animal, organic-nonorganic, and living-non living (Vermeulen et al. 2016)*. Recent development in the scientific landscape is characterized by increased demands for 'response-able' research within life sciences. For example, I work within a newly established national biotechnology centre called Digital Life Norway (DLN), where inter- and transdisciplinarity is to be an important theme in order to generate social value through computational biotechnology research. In this paper, I examine whether meetings in this organisational form of a national but decentralized centre creates novel relations and collaborations. I focus on an interdisciplinary project on tissue engineering aiming to develop novel strategies for 3D microtissue engineering. To gain increased understanding of the environment of growing cells, the first project phase is an attempt to make alginate gels with desired properties for the cells to thrive in. Which role do objects such as gels play in this project, and how can this be seen as a bio-objectification process? Drawing on ethnographic participant observation and semi-structured interviews, this paper explores how the process of bio-objectification plays out in the project, and what consequences this have both for interdisciplinary collaboration and for how the biological processes are digitalized.

*Vermeulen, N., Tamminen, S., & Webster, A. (Eds.). (2016). Bio-objects: Life in the 21st Century. Routledge.

Panel C09
Bio-objectification: meetings and new thresholds across the bio-social