During the London 2012 Games, the Wellcome Trust gallery has held its ‘Superhuman’ exhibition, to which I contributed. It’s a great exhibition – effectively my whole academic life in a few rooms – and it’s on until 16 October (day after my birthday). It’s also got some of the content online, including a floating head interview with me, along with people I’ve worked with in the past: Anders Sandberg, Julian Savulescu, John Harris, Bennett Foddy, and Barbara Sahakian.
Giving talk at Sheffield Uni on 9 June – Nanotechnology and Postmodern Culture
What kind of future is nanotechnology creating for us? What will it mean to be human in the twenty-first century?Professor Richard Jones (Physics and Astronomy), Dr Alex Houen (English), and Professor Andy Miah (Media, Language and Music, University of the West of Scotland)
On November 15-16, 2008, the world’s most dangerous ideas will collide in Mountain View, California. Convergence08 examines the world-changing possibilities of Nanotech and the life-changing promises of Biotech. It is the premier forum for debate and exploration of Cogtech ethics, and ground zero of the past and future Infotech revolution. Convergence08 is an innovative, lively unconference, the first and only forum dedicated to NBIC (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno) technologies.
Today, I attended FACT’s seminar for artists and professionals, based around their Human Futures exhibition. The conversations were broadly about the practice of art processes and how we should proceed with artistic undertakings.
One of the most interesting conversations I had was with Olivier Goulet who indicated he was very interested in my view. He immediaely reminded me of Alfredo, of Irene and Alfredo. I want to hook them up together, for Irene to sell his clothes in her ‘sustainable clothing’ shop in Barcelona.
We talked a lot about his work and I was very interested in how his clothing made from synthetic
human skin were received by audiences. He explained that the removal of the word ‘human’ from publicity led to quite different responses, all of which were really fascinating. The clothes he makes are beautiful; incredibly stylish, trendy and wearable. He’s performing tomorrow night and we’ll hope to see him, but here’s SkinBag: http://www.skinbag.net/
my kind of event, why aren’t i going!?
- The edge of science (eg, synthetic biology, quantum gravity, cognitive science)
- The edge of technology (eg, mobile web, ambient computing, nanotechnology, web 2.0)
- Science 2.0 (open access, changing models of publication and collaboration, scientific software)
- Scientific literacy and public engagement (eg, one laptop per child project, policy and science, technology as legislation, enfranchising the poor, the young, the old)
- The interactions of science, art and culture: Scientists and artists as partners in the continuing evolution of the culture.
In the tradition of BarCamps, otherwise known as “unconferences”, (see BarCamp.org for more information), the program is decided by the participants at the beginning of the meeting, in the opening reception. Presentations and discussion topics can be proposed here or on the opening night. SciBarCamp will require active participation; while not everybody will present or lead a discussion, everybody will be expected to contribute substantially – this will help make it a really creative event.
The talks will be informal and interactive; to encourage this, speakers who wish to give PowerPoint presentations will have ten minutes to present, while those without will have twenty minutes. Around half of the time will be dedicated to small group discussions on topics suggested by the participants. The social events and meals will make it easy to meet people from different fields and industries. Our venue, Hart House, is a congenial space with plenty of informal areas to work or talk, and there will be free wireless access throughout.
Our goals are:
- Igniting new projects, collaborations, business opportunities, and further events.
- Intellectual stimulation and good conversation.
- Integrating science into Toronto’s cultural, entrepreneurial, and intellectual activities.
- Prototyping a model that can be easily duplicated elsewhere.
Attendance is free, but there is only space for around 100 people, so please register by sending an email to Jen Dodd (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name and contact details. Please include a link to your blog or your organization’s webpage that we can display with your name on the participants list at www.SciBarCamp.org.
Thanks to our sponsors so far!
- Hart House
- Scimatic Software
We’re looking for sponsorship for SciBarCamp. If you’re interested in sponsoring, please contact Jen Dodd (email@example.com, +1 (519) 572 2275).
On Friday, Bettina Hoermann and I set up a new email discussion list through jiscmail titled ‘Upstream Nano‘. We’re aiming to build a special interest group on public engagement and nanoscience and nanotechnology, where an exchange of ideas on the particularities of such work are the focus. Joining the list is simple and information can be found here.
The Institute of Nanotechnology is now offering its fantastic magazine for free electronic download.
This week, Craig Venter has been working the UK media to its fullest in what seems a whistlestop tour over to convey his work in the area of synthetic biology. In the UK, news about this broke first in the Guardian on Saturday 6th October. Venter’s website promptly indicated that the newspaper was slightly ahead of itself by announcing this work, stressing that publications are not yet in place. It seems now that they were only 3 weeks ahead of themselves as Venter has clearly broken the news on this in the fullest sense. While he still stresses that this work is futuristic and unlikely to give rise to any new life forms within his lifetime, the rhetoric of promise is interesting. Last night on BBC’s Hard Talk and on Newsnight earlier in the week, he emphasised the importance of the research for environmental sustainability. This cannot be coincidental, but appears as a decisive, partial rebranding of gentic science. So, here we have a clear handling of the media taking place drawing on persuasive rhetorics about the long-term benefit of experimental science. He talked about modifying humans to ensure they can survive in climates where greater carbon
is in the atmosphere. Nice idea. It’s all plausible, but we should still be wary of this utilization of discourses to co-opt political support for science.
I’m sure Venter’s work over this period will be the subject of many studies on science communication. Things seem much more sophisticated than they were 10 years ago, when the Human Genome was nearing completion. The ante has been upped, so to speak. Now the scientists are much more in tune with how to get the message out. I could not help but feel that the Guardian story was a first litmus test for public opinion. We’ve not seen the last of this yet.
This week, I start working with another new PhD student, Bettina Hoermann from Germany. Tina will be working on a project that deals with upstream engagement issues related to nanotechnology. She is co-funded by the Institute of Nanotechnology and starts her time with us by heading down to Oxford University for the NanoBio-RAISE advance course on nanotechnology. By all accounts, it’s an awesome event! Tina and I met up for the first time while I was in Berlin last weekend.
Bettina Hörmann, BA (Hons), MA
Bettina (Tina) Hörmann is the Institute of Nanotechnology Doctoral Researcher in Public Engagement with Science, at the School of Media, Language and Music, University of Paisley. Tina’s research investigates ethical, policy and communication issues arising from nanotechnology.
Previously a Master degree student in Sociology at Brunel University, where she attained a Distinction on her dissertation, Tina is originally from Germany. Her undergraduate honours degree in Communication is from the University of Applied Science Hanover. Tina brings considerable expertise in the area of science communication and is working closely with the IoN in developing an industry sensitive analysis of critical nanotechnology challenges within the United Kingdom.
email: email [AT] bettinahoermann.net
This week, I’ve arranged to give a session at the IoN in Stirling during the first week of August. Earlier this year, I met its CEO Ottilia Saxl, as part of the NanoBio-RAISE project. I also anticipate that the work of the new PhD studentship we advertized will be closely connected to the IoN. It’s a fascinating enterprise and I look forward to being there to talk about all that is new media and public engagement.
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