How does the organism being engineered feature in synthetic genomics?
The organism is often notably absent from discussions of synthetic biology. But are things different in synthetic genomics? In our prior study of the synthetic yeast project, the distinctive characteristics of the yeast were vital to the research. We will look into the extent to which we see the organism being foregrounded in synthetic genomics projects.
Could synthetic genomics change relationships between humans and other species?
Organisms come with established relations to social worlds both inside and outside the lab. Synthetic genomics reconfigures these relations by positioning humans as designers of other creatures, troubling ideas of provenance and descent. This raises questions about who should make the design decisions about the organisms of the future.
We hosted a workshop in May 2023 in Fort Collins, Colorado, about cultivating response-ability and furnishing multispecies "living room(s)." We invited artists and designers, synthetic biologists, social scientists and humanists to co-create tools for multispecies RRI as living-room furnishings, in a deliberate effort to not center synthetic genomics or other technologies, and to curate the present rather than focusing on imagined futures.
Alongside our interdisciplinary, experimental, co-cocreative workshop, we held an open, public panel on “Designing with Living Organisms” co-sponsored with Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability.
Inspired by the project themes, and inspiring the workshop and the public panel, we've brewed a custom beer called WITH with the generous help of Fort Collins independent craft brewery Odell. WITH is an experimental farmhouse ale brewed with spent syrah grapes, and with the microbes on those grapes, and with Future Organisms...you get the idea. It's a delicious example of designing with (many) other creatures in a way that oscillates between control and contingency.