6. Wet Machines – a discourse across art, science and technology

Keywords: Biotechnology, synthetic biology, genetics, DIYbio, bioart

The category of machines has been widened in recent years to include wet machines that are constructed from living matter with biotechnological methods or which host and support biological and biotechnological processes. These machines often include various combinations of hardware, living organisms and computation (hardware, software and wetware).

The historical basis for today’s developments can be seen e.g. in the development of genetics. For decades, genetics has been using the metaphor of “genes as code”. In molecular biology, scientists and engineers have developed a perception on biological organisms as machinery. Today this is visible for example in the development of synthetic biology and of course in the very idea that life can be engineered. We are confronted with an era where living organisms are designed, standardized, controlled, and prevented from unwanted mutations. Both synthetic and systems biology can increasingly be done on a computer, which adds complexity to the discourse of wet machines. Evolution can take place in computational as well as biological media. Wet machines is an emerging area that is investigated by various actors and fields – including artists, scientists, designers, philosophers, societal actors and DIY activists. Some are experimenting with the offered possibilities, whereas others seek to critique the inadequacy of the biological machine discourse and argue that life will ultimately resist our efforts to control it.

We invite proposals for papers, workshops, panels, fictions, interventions, and potential other formats within the limits of the conference structure and location. The possible questions to be addressed (not excluding others) are:

  • What can be meant by a wet machine?
  • What visions can be conjured about wet machinery in future societies?
  • What kinds of power relations are inherent in the perception of life as machinery?
  • How does this area and discourse impact our view of life and evolution?
  • What is the relation between artificial and biological life in the discourse of wet machines (e.g. in biomimicry, cyborgs, etc.)?
  • What kind of societal and/or emotional impacts might the wet machines induce?
  • Are there alternatives for technoscientific development that steer away from engineering approaches?
  • How might we view life differently?
  • Can, and should, biological organisms and life be controlled, standardized, designed, engineered, hacked

Sub-theme hosted by Nora S. Vaage and Laura Beloff

Submit a proposal of a maximum 500 words.

Submit abstract to EasyChair here