[-empyre-] New Scales of Living

Phillip S Thurtle thurtle at uw.edu
Tue Oct 1 07:58:06 EST 2013

Interesting points, Adam. I see some interesting synergies with
earlier posts as well. We've been using the analytic of "aesthetics"
on the list and I'm wondering how that might relate to your use of
"design"? Your suggestion at the end of the post regarding synbio
suggests that design might be related more to engineering, although I
don't think it a perfect overlap. Could you help me triangulate these
three terms: design, engineering, and aesthetics?

I realize that this is a lot to ask.


On Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 10:32 PM, Adam Nocek <anocek at uw.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi all,
> I'd like to offer a few thoughts regarding "New Scales of Living" by picking up on something that Phillip wrote last week:
> "the inside and outside the laboratory distinction is useful, but constantly needs to be tempered by identifying how labs are both privileged places as well as highly interlinked places."
> This strikes me as a critical insight, though I'd like to add -- and I think this is already implicit in Phillip's remarks-- that the concepts we construct are essential for producing modes of thought that do not privilege spaces like the biologist's laboratory. A.N. Whitehead's wrote something similar in his _Science and the Modern World_ when he calls for the re-engineering of our abstractions so that we resist the modern temptation to bifurcate nature into essential and non-essential qualities (e.g. the laboratory and then those other spaces). For Whitehead, these concepts need to be constructed and re-constructed. What's essential is not the concepts themselves, but rather their effects. Can they produce non-bifurcating modes of thought?
> With this in mind, I wonder in what ways "design" has become, or rather could become, a concept that challenges the privilege of the laboratory space? While design has certainly been important to biotechnology since the 70s and 80s, with the rise of synthetic biology in the last decade or so, it is now used to articulate the terms of a full-scale method: the application of design principles to biological systems. And yet professional design disciplines -- architectural and industrial design, specifically -- have become increasingly concerned with how the design of living systems in synbio make available new media for design (check out: http://www.syntheticaesthetics.org/)  -- some architects even advocate that architecture is a form of artificial life at a non-standard scale. In this perspective, life has become designed and design has become living.
> I'm interested in what ways design challenges the laboratory space... or reinforces it at another level.
> Thanks,
> Adam
> On Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 9:07 PM, Adam Nocek <anocek at uw.edu> wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> Once again, a terrific discussion this week. I'd like to extend a big thanks to Adam Z,  Phillip, Nik and Maja for their contributions. I know there are still a lot of loose ends -- especially, on the nature of experiment, process, and pragmatics in relation to the "Biochymickal Arts" workshop (which I encourage you to look at!)-- so please continue discussing!
>> This week I'd like to welcome Luciana Parisi to  -empyre-   Luciana and I will be considering how bioart might be extended to new and exciting scales.
>> Here is short bio for Luciana:
>> Luciana Parisi is Senior Lecturer/Convenor of the PhD in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. Parisi’s research looks at the asymmetric relationship between science and philosophy, aesthetics and culture, technology and politics to investigate potential conditions for ontological and epistemological change.  Her work on cybernetics and information theories, evolutionary theories, genetic coding and viral transmission has informed her analysis of culture and politics, the critique of capitalism, power and control. During the late 90s she worked with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at Warwick and has since been writing with Steve Goodman (aka kode 9). In 2004, she published Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (Continuum Press), where she departed from the critical impasse between notions of the body, sexuality, gender on the one hand, and studies of science and technologies on the other. Her work engaged with ontological and epistemological transformations entangled to the technocapitalist development of biotechnologies, which un-intentionally re-articulated models of evolutions, questioning dominant conceptions of sex, femininity and desire.  Since the publication of Abstract Sex, she has also written on the bionic transformation of the perceptive sensorium triggered by new media, on the advancement of new techno-ecologies of control, and on the nanoengineering of matter.  She has published articles about the relation between cybernetic machines, memory and perception in the context of a non-phenomenological critique of computational media and in relation to emerging strategies of branding and marketing. Her interest in interactive media has also led her research to engage more closely with computation, cognition, and algorithmic aesthetics. Parisi’s latest monograph, Contagious Architecture. Computation, Aesthetics and Space  (MIT Press,2013), reflect these concerns.
>> Thanks,
>> Adam
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Phillip Thurtle
Associate Professor, Comparative History of Ideas

Associate Professor, History
Adjunct Associate Professor, Anthropology
University of Washington

Adjunct Professor of Sociology
Carleton University

Co-editor of the book series In Vivo: The Cultural Mediations of
Biomedicine available from University of Washington Press

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