Ars Synthetica Prototype Launches

We are pleased to announce the launch of a working prototype (beta release) of Ars Synthetica, a web-based multimedia forum for engaging specialists and non-specialists in an informed, ethical, and democratic dialogue on the emerging field of synthetic biology.

Paul Rabinow introduces Ars Synthetica

Anthropology professor Paul Rabinow introduces Ars Synthetica to his colleagues.

Ars Synthetica is a collaboration between Open Knowledge and the Public Interest, the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory, and the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, QB3, UCSF, Prairie View A&M). The site is designed to provide multiple participatory channels for exploring questions about ethics, security, and how cutting-edge research in the biosciences is organized, governed, funded, and expanded. How will synthetic biology shape and be shaped by medicine, energy, and environmental needs? Whose business is ethics? What are the limits to what we can design? These are the kinds of questions that Ars Synthetica poses to expert and lay communities alike. Our goal is to actively resist the polemics that often characterize public discourse about new science and technology. We seek the fertile grounds for discourse between the hype of revolution on the one side and fears of “playing God” on the other. The outcome will not provide absolute or final answers, but  enable a diverse range of participant responses, perspectives, and concerns.

Ars Synthetica will feature many student projects, such as this multimedia piece by Marlee Tichenor

Ars Synthetica will feature many student projects, such as this multimedia piece by Marlee Tichenor

We are releasing the site  as a public beta, while the Ars Synthetica team develops site content, expands participation and gathers feedback before the next round of development. During the Spring ’09 semester, students in Professor Rabinow’s graduate and undergraduate courses will be preparing content for Ars Synthetica.

Features of Ars Synthetica:

Provide a means of representing and giving form to nonlinear connections among the many elements of the Ars Synthetica site. We anticipate developing and allowing our community to develop multiple nonlinear pathways through Ars Synthetica.

Problems, Truth Claims & Debates
Ars Synthetica features Problems, Truth Claims and Debates, designed to engage visitors in reflection and dialogue around emerging issues in the life sciences.  Whose business is ethics? Are there limits to what we can design? Are biologists playing God? Ars Synthetica users can contribute to existing  Problems, Truth Claims and Debates or contribute new ones.

The Archive contains abstracts and full publications related to synthetic biology, including scientific journal articles and popular press publications.

Allows visitors to upload their own multimedia products, including  research papers and multimedia works. Once uploaded, others can comment on the works of others.

The blog aggregates posts from multiple authors and blogs, including On the Assembly of Things, Vital Systems Security, Biopower and the Contemporary, and Synbio and the Technocrat, and the student-run iGEM blog.

The Website is built using Omeka, open-source software for museum exhibits and collections. The site uses a custom version of our OKAPI exhibit template for Omeka.

Web 2.0
The site is distributed  across the web, leveraging multiple technologies and services, including  MediaWiki, YouTube,, Flickr, Scribd, and Vuvox.

Ars Synthetica: Designs for Human Practice
Explore this publication, authored by Paul Rabinow and Gaymon Bennett, to learn more about the ideas underlying this project.

Public Understanding of Research Program
This project was developed under OKAPI’s Public Understanding of Research Program.


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