Week 1: An Introduction to Biofabrication

This week we began our new class.  We discussed this emerging idea of biofabrication and how we were going to explore this topic throughout the semester.

To establish some context on this subject we watched series of videos, each followed by a lively class discussion. We began with an appreciation of how nature build things with a video on biomimicry. 

Following the class discussion on that video we saw a talk by Koert van Mensvoort. The entire idea of “nature” was re-contextualized by Mensvoort, the founder and director of Next Nature. In his talk this philosopher and provocateur claims we must shift our understanding of nature as being born vs made to that which is not under control vs what is under human control.


The final video was a talk by Daisy Ginsberg who nicely framed this whole idea of biodesign central to this class.

A quote from the video:

How are we going to get around things that design has been able to ignore up until now? I think they are going to become vitally important – like product life cycles, disposal context, and nature itself. While synthetic biology promises to build a better future, as we design within the round that living things, I think we should be wary of thinking that there’s one version of “better.” Eradicating mosquitoes may be good for us but is it a good idea? I have no idea, but its already being released into the environment in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, and elsewhere.

I think the separation that we see between our designs and ourselves is in question here. And [as we are] redesigning the boundary between what we make and what we are, our relationship with objects and the systems that they operate within can no longer be assumed to hold true. Even if synthetic biology is subsumed into other disciplines, I think one thing is true in a biotech revolution. And I think that is our current language of design lacks the tools to help us imagine the unnamed. So how do we develop a design discourse of speculation on the cultural function a biological objects?

This is frames our task for the biodesign challenge.

Lastly, Ryan presented a brief overview of the “central dogma” of biology and the techniques of synthetic biology. These principles are core to the topics we will explore in this class and underlie the work we will be doing in the lab in the coming weeks.

 

It was a lot to take in, but we are looking forward to an exciting semester of Biofabrication!