Classifying, Constructing, and Identifying Life: Standards as Transformations of "The Biological"

Adrian Mackenzie, Claire Waterton, Rebecca Ellis, Emma Frow, Ruth McNally, Lawrence Busch, Brian Wynne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recent accounts of "the biological" emphasize its thoroughgoing transformation. Accounts of biomedicalization, biotechnology, biopower, biocapital, and bioeconomy tend to agree that twentieth- and twenty-first-century life sciences transform the object of biology, the biological. Amidst so much transformation, we explore attempts to stabilize the biological through standards. We ask: how do standards handle the biological in transformation? Based on ethnographic research, the article discusses three contemporary postgenomic standards that classify, construct, or identify biological forms: the Barcoding of Life Initiative, the BioBricks Assembly Standard, and the Proteomics Standards Initiative. We rely on recent critical analyses of standardization to suggest that any attempt to attribute a fixed property to the biological actually multiplies dependencies between values, materials, and human and nonhuman agents. We highlight ways in which these biological standards cross-validate life forms with forms of life such as publics, infrastructures, and forms of disciplinary compromise. Attempts to standardize the biological, we suggest, offer a good way to see how a life form is always also a form of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-722
Number of pages22
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Volume38
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

biotechnology policy
life sciences
Biotechnology
biotechnology
Standardization
twenty-first century
compromise
biology
infrastructure
Values
Forms of Life
Proteomics
Life sciences
Public infrastructure
Compromise
Ethnographic Research
Life Sciences
Biopower
Nonhuman

Keywords

  • biology
  • infrastructures
  • proteomics
  • publics
  • standards
  • synthetic biology
  • taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Engineering(all)
  • Philosophy
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Anthropology
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Classifying, Constructing, and Identifying Life : Standards as Transformations of "The Biological". / Mackenzie, Adrian; Waterton, Claire; Ellis, Rebecca; Frow, Emma; McNally, Ruth; Busch, Lawrence; Wynne, Brian.

In: Science Technology and Human Values, Vol. 38, No. 5, 09.2013, p. 701-722.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mackenzie, Adrian ; Waterton, Claire ; Ellis, Rebecca ; Frow, Emma ; McNally, Ruth ; Busch, Lawrence ; Wynne, Brian. / Classifying, Constructing, and Identifying Life : Standards as Transformations of "The Biological". In: Science Technology and Human Values. 2013 ; Vol. 38, No. 5. pp. 701-722.
@article{95f98e2354884adf8ff7114a87523977,
title = "Classifying, Constructing, and Identifying Life: Standards as Transformations of {"}The Biological{"}",
abstract = "Recent accounts of {"}the biological{"} emphasize its thoroughgoing transformation. Accounts of biomedicalization, biotechnology, biopower, biocapital, and bioeconomy tend to agree that twentieth- and twenty-first-century life sciences transform the object of biology, the biological. Amidst so much transformation, we explore attempts to stabilize the biological through standards. We ask: how do standards handle the biological in transformation? Based on ethnographic research, the article discusses three contemporary postgenomic standards that classify, construct, or identify biological forms: the Barcoding of Life Initiative, the BioBricks Assembly Standard, and the Proteomics Standards Initiative. We rely on recent critical analyses of standardization to suggest that any attempt to attribute a fixed property to the biological actually multiplies dependencies between values, materials, and human and nonhuman agents. We highlight ways in which these biological standards cross-validate life forms with forms of life such as publics, infrastructures, and forms of disciplinary compromise. Attempts to standardize the biological, we suggest, offer a good way to see how a life form is always also a form of life.",
keywords = "biology, infrastructures, proteomics, publics, standards, synthetic biology, taxonomy",
author = "Adrian Mackenzie and Claire Waterton and Rebecca Ellis and Emma Frow and Ruth McNally and Lawrence Busch and Brian Wynne",
year = "2013",
month = "9",
doi = "10.1177/0162243912474324",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "38",
pages = "701--722",
journal = "Science Technology and Human Values",
issn = "0162-2439",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Inc.",
number = "5",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Classifying, Constructing, and Identifying Life

T2 - Standards as Transformations of "The Biological"

AU - Mackenzie, Adrian

AU - Waterton, Claire

AU - Ellis, Rebecca

AU - Frow, Emma

AU - McNally, Ruth

AU - Busch, Lawrence

AU - Wynne, Brian

PY - 2013/9

Y1 - 2013/9

N2 - Recent accounts of "the biological" emphasize its thoroughgoing transformation. Accounts of biomedicalization, biotechnology, biopower, biocapital, and bioeconomy tend to agree that twentieth- and twenty-first-century life sciences transform the object of biology, the biological. Amidst so much transformation, we explore attempts to stabilize the biological through standards. We ask: how do standards handle the biological in transformation? Based on ethnographic research, the article discusses three contemporary postgenomic standards that classify, construct, or identify biological forms: the Barcoding of Life Initiative, the BioBricks Assembly Standard, and the Proteomics Standards Initiative. We rely on recent critical analyses of standardization to suggest that any attempt to attribute a fixed property to the biological actually multiplies dependencies between values, materials, and human and nonhuman agents. We highlight ways in which these biological standards cross-validate life forms with forms of life such as publics, infrastructures, and forms of disciplinary compromise. Attempts to standardize the biological, we suggest, offer a good way to see how a life form is always also a form of life.

AB - Recent accounts of "the biological" emphasize its thoroughgoing transformation. Accounts of biomedicalization, biotechnology, biopower, biocapital, and bioeconomy tend to agree that twentieth- and twenty-first-century life sciences transform the object of biology, the biological. Amidst so much transformation, we explore attempts to stabilize the biological through standards. We ask: how do standards handle the biological in transformation? Based on ethnographic research, the article discusses three contemporary postgenomic standards that classify, construct, or identify biological forms: the Barcoding of Life Initiative, the BioBricks Assembly Standard, and the Proteomics Standards Initiative. We rely on recent critical analyses of standardization to suggest that any attempt to attribute a fixed property to the biological actually multiplies dependencies between values, materials, and human and nonhuman agents. We highlight ways in which these biological standards cross-validate life forms with forms of life such as publics, infrastructures, and forms of disciplinary compromise. Attempts to standardize the biological, we suggest, offer a good way to see how a life form is always also a form of life.

KW - biology

KW - infrastructures

KW - proteomics

KW - publics

KW - standards

KW - synthetic biology

KW - taxonomy

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84881153954&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84881153954&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/0162243912474324

DO - 10.1177/0162243912474324

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84881153954

VL - 38

SP - 701

EP - 722

JO - Science Technology and Human Values

JF - Science Technology and Human Values

SN - 0162-2439

IS - 5

ER -