Biohackers. The Politics of Open Science. Hackers aiming at the conquest of the world of science : Digicult | Digital Art, Design and Culture
"What do hackers have to do with BioLabs dealing with DNA mapping and testing new modifications of human life? Biohackers. The Politics of Open Science is a book published by Pluto Press and written by Alessandro Delfanti (http://issuu.com/plutopress/docs/delfanti_biohackers) a scholar who studies the relationships between science and society. He tells us not only that the hacker culture has many things in common with the world of science, but also, in a more fascinating way, that the current transformations of life sciences are and will be even more characterized by a mash-up or remix (by adopting the author’s own words) between the traditional scientific culture, the hacker ethics and the open access culture. Maybe biohackers won’t conquer the world, but the near future of science will be influenced by ideas, cultural references and even contradictions which are typical of the hacker world in any case, according to what the author claims in a way that is theoretically convincing and empirically documented. What is then the relationship between the world of science and biology? We can define at least two of the levels of connection between hacking and science that Delfanti puts into focus in his book. The first level regards the direct transposition of the hacking methods in the contexts of biological research. In recent years a movement of activists and experimenters in the biology field has emerged; in effect they have started hacking machines and processes in use in biomedical research. One of the cases studied by Delfanti relates to DIYbio (Do-it-Yourself biology). The case discusses a network of amateur biologists that was born in the United States in 2008 and later spread across several parts of the world. DIYbio’s biologists have built home-workshops where they can do small bio experiments independently from scientific institutions and traditional research hierarchies ... But it’s probably a second level, represented by a dimension of interaction between the hacker ethics and the world of science, which is much more deep and radical, even if apparently less visible. This second level is about the cultural influence the hacker ethics and the open source organization are having on scientific practices, on professional dynamics and strategies used by scientists, and more generally, on their own role of contemporary society. The two last decades in the evolution of science have marked a period of profound change which has been characterized by an increasingly strong mixture of scientific innovation, economic interests and large multinational corporations’ politics. According to the analysis made by the author, it emerged that, in recent years, hacker ethics and open culture have brought into the world of science a series of typical cultural instances such as distrust on large multinational biotech companies (the so-called Big Bio), sensibility to issues like collective ownership of scientific data, and critical approach to the dependence of science on economic interests and existing power structures. In this context of transformations – where universities and research centres have become in turn economic actors who are interested first in the commercial exploitation of scientific research – values and conventions of the hacker culture have turned to be an essential resource in order to give greater legitimacy to science in a society which is getting even more critical to the impact of laboratory inventions ..."