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Biomedicine in museums

Why is there no biomedicine and biotech of the Multitude?

By November 28, 2007No Comments

Most science, technology and medicine today originates in ‘Empire’, not in ‘Multitude‘. But there are interesting exceptions, for example The 2nd annual Maker Faire in the Bay Area in May, which seems to have been a feast for bottom-up inventive science and technology geeks — if you can trust this video (from Quest).

Make-zine described the Maker Faire as a “science fair, with beer”. Quest wrote:

It’s been called “Burning Man for science geeks.” The annual Maker Faire attracts thousands of amateur inventors and scientists, displaying their home-made prototypes and gadget hacks. In a world where the technological race is speeding up, the Maker movement has revealed that the do-it-yourself culture is in no danger of dying out.

Apparently not the boring standard ‘public understanding of science’ kind of event, but a truly sci&tech popular movement occasion. A sort of sci&tech of the ‘Multitude‘ pace Michael Hardt and Toni Negri.

But — most of the DIY things in the first two Maker Fairs seem to have been based on classical physical science and engineering. No biomedicine or biotech.

It makes me wonder (again) if there is any DIY-biotech movement out there? Where are the Steve Jobs of postgenomics fiddling around with recombinant technology and protein sequencers?

I shortly discussed the future possibilities of “garage biotech and medicine” with Steve Kurtz when he was in Copenhagen in early September. He suggested that the limiting factor for a DIY biotech and biomedicine movement is the costs of the reagents. In other words, it is not the complexity of the protocols, or the hardware, or the lack of ambitions that set the limits, but the fact that the reagents used, for example in basic recombinant technology, are so expensive that happy amateurs cannot afford them.

Is Steve really right? Does anyone have a price list at hand? Or are there other, and less pedestrian, reasons for the lack of biotech and biomedicine stands on the Maker Fair?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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