2012-13 5_Against Nature

As technologies develop, new kinds of related design practices emerge. The area of biotechnology is particularly intriguing because the roles and responsibilities for designers working with bio-technologists are still undetermined, and frequently contentious – both within the scientific community, and society at large. This project is unashamedly designed to be a ‘gateway drug’ to this exciting, messy space of interdisciplinary practice.

The Against Nature project is co-taught throughout with a synthetic biologist and is comprised of three phases, each lasting a week. Week one, “Immersion,” is a week of lab visits, a biohacking workshop, readings, screenings, seminars. These activities form the culture for the first assignment. Students are asked to formulate a speculative biotechnology-related design question – a question that can be addressed by starting to design something – that would inextricably entail challenging some conventional thinking about morality, ethics, taste, or aesthetics. In the second week, “Agitation,” students devise and facilitate a workshop. Students determine the format and participants with the aim of testing assumptions and sharpening their thinking about their chosen design area. In the final week, “Concretization,” students either create a design proposal informed by their workshop experiences or may instead choose to run another, more refined, workshop.

Throughout the three weeks students are encouraged to steer their inquiries towards areas of ambivalence, and use the act of designing to tease out some of the dimensions of these areas as groundwork for future, more applied, projects.

Guest collaborator: Dr. Christina Agapakis, Hirsch Lab, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, UCLA

Featured Projects:

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Chromosome Consulting Co. Corporate Campus Future Vision

Near Awkward addresses the failure of genetic science as a totalizing explanation of heritage — how group affiliations are still largely social constructs and how these issues are complicated by the vast gray area that exists between scientific precision and societal imprecision: the reassuring claims of diagrams and rhetoric in the face of historic injustice and indifference. By Ian Besler

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Lance Gracie Institute For P. E. P.

The Lance Gracie Institute For Perfomance Enhancing Pharmaceuticals. The face of Gene Doping, Lance Gracie has paved the way for how we implement and carefully use performance enhancing drugs in the 21st Century. By Eric Battin

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Futures Trading of Ecology

is a system of calculation to determine survival of species through negotiations within a City Council. Our increasing control over nature suggests that natural selection is an outdated model of evolution. Humans have redefined what it means to be the ‘fittest’ and play a part in determining which species may become extinct or de-extinct. By Divya Gaitonde

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