Science Technology and Society is a discipline focused on the intersection of science, technology at the interface of society.
As science and technology, and research interests reflect the times, and much research is funded by public funding, it is important that the results and the process is also understandable to all citizens.
If art captures the essence of society of the moment, or is the first to explore societal change or futuristic visions, currently science and technology, especially the biomedical sciences offers culturally rich and problematic discourse.
The prevalence of genetics as the center of biological understanding by the layman is concerning. However, it is the easiest and most popularized level of current research practice.
The image of the ear in the back of the mouse ("Vacanti Mouse") was originally made big by TIME magazine cover. Although this had nothing to do with genetic engineering or transgenic technologies, the public understood this as such. Artists have propagated this image, for example, Stelarc, has implanted a ear in his arm.
Beyond genetics, there are now many exhibitions that have featured bioart, such as the Becoming Animal exhibition at Mass MOCA in 2005, or the Design and the Elastic Mind at the MOMA in 2008.
There are artists and scientist collaborations or collaboratories in different formats all over the world - SymbioticA
(U Western Australia, Perth, Australia), Le Laboratoire
(Paris, France), The Laboratory
(Harvard, Boston, USA), and Artists in Labs
(Switzerland). How to open up scientific research to society, or to artists is a much discussed subject. While SymbioticA is attached to an anatomy department in the University of Western Australia, many of the art and science movements currently very popular (2011), are often artists having the privilege to work in scientific environments, which creates another "white cube" (as compared to the "ivory tower") of artistic endeavors.
To expand access to biology outside of the laboratory, the DIY biology movement has gained momentum. Perhaps due to the ease of techniques, and connections to accessible concepts, synthetic biology as become a popular topic.
A link to synthetic biology, Synthetic Aesthetics
expands on what synthetic biology can do for art and science collaborations. Like iGEM
, many art and science courses encompassing biological techniques have been taught at university level
beyond the usual confines of studying "biology" or "biotechnology".
While synthetic biology (deliberate design of biological systems and living organisms using engineering principles) is the title, this movement has gone beyond the confines of University classes, into projects like iGEM
, into DIY projects with project aims
This is actually a movement towards open-source
, hacker culture, paralleling the same in informatics. DIY sites such as DIY BIO 4 Beginners
, including how to isolate amniotic stem cells from placenta, at home
. Within this movement, hackteria
is unique in that they bridge the DIY bio movement with the art and science movement, bringing bioart outside of artistic circles, and bringing more than genetics and lab gear building to the amateur scientists.
All of these developments beg us to question what it means to open science beyond the confines of the laboratory, institutions, and controlled environments. This is acutely in focus, when the U.S. government asks journals to suppress scientific facts
, so that terrorists cannot use this information to make bioweapons. Will the regulations start limiting citizen science? Is transparency the answer
? In what kind of society will you do your science?