Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology's Designs On Nature

Hardcover | February 28, 2014

byAlexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Jane Calvert, Pablo Schyfter

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Synthetic biology manipulates the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. In search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, these researchers aim to redesign existing organisms and even construct completely novel biological entities. Some synthetic biologists see themselves as designers, inventing new products and applications. But if biology is viewed as a malleable, engineerable, designable medium, what is the role of design and how will its values apply?

In this book, synthetic biologists, artists, designers, and social scientists investigate synthetic biology and design. After chapters that introduce the science and set the terms of the discussion, the book follows six boundary-crossing collaborations between artists and designers and synthetic biologists from around the world, helping us understand what it might mean to 'design nature.' These collaborations have resulted in biological computers that calculate form; speculative packaging that builds its own contents; algae that feeds on circuit boards; and a sampling of human cheeses. They raise intriguing questions about the scientific process, the delegation of creativity, our relationship to designed matter, and, the importance of critical engagement. Should these projects be considered art, design, synthetic biology, or something else altogether?

Synthetic biology is driven by its potential; some of these projects are fictions, beyond the current capabilities of the technology. Yet even as fictions, they help illuminate, question, and even shape the future of the field.

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From the Publisher

Synthetic biology manipulates the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. In search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, these researchers aim to redesign existing organisms and even construct completely novel biological entities. Some synthetic bi...

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is a London-based artist, designer, and writer. Jane Calvert and Pablo Schyfter are social scientists based in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Alistair Elfick is Codirector of the SynthSys Centre at the University of Edinburgh. Drew Endy is a bioengineer at Stanford Un...
Format:HardcoverDimensions:376 pages, 9 × 8 × 0.81 inPublished:February 28, 2014Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:026201999X

ISBN - 13:9780262019996

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Synthetic Aesthetics is wise in not attempting a comprehensive survey of this fast changing and much contested industry, but by taking a collaborative approach that attempts to integrate design based questioning with scientific practice, it provides lots of juicy clues about where we could be headed.