Abstract

Today, with the emergence of Synthetic Biology, living systems are increasingly conceived as design products that can circulate outside laboratories, factories, or distant farm lands. From medical applications to fashion, product, graphic design, and architecture, biological designs claim the potential to shape the social norms and influence the aesthetic, economic, ethical, and moral values of everyday. Synthetic biological design shares tools, techniques, and paradigms with most modern design disciplines. Designers compose biological forms and functions running modeling and simulation software; order standardized biological parts from online libraries and databases; ask companies to synthesize gene products to prototype their designs; and build complex artifacts, applications and services that interface with human wants, needs, fears, and desires on a daily basis. The interaction with other design disciplines not only fuels biological design’s creative potential, but also introduces new limits. The object-, part-, and component-centric design methods inherited from analytical design and engineering are currently the prevailing paradigms that define the way we can imagine, represent, design, and fabricate living artifacts. In this paper, I argue that there is an increasing need to diversify the approaches to modern biological design. I present a series of abstractions that define the units of biological design and become the basis of new biological products and applications. These representational paradigms not only inform the design process, but, more importantly, determine the perception of the synthetic living and its use and function within the broader values of the society. My overall goal is to discuss the current research within biochemical design space and point out the emerging undercurrents that can lead design research into more discursive directions.

Keywords

synthetic biology, unitary design, abstraction, functionalism

COinS
 
Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

A Critique of Design Methods in Synthetic Biological Design

Today, with the emergence of Synthetic Biology, living systems are increasingly conceived as design products that can circulate outside laboratories, factories, or distant farm lands. From medical applications to fashion, product, graphic design, and architecture, biological designs claim the potential to shape the social norms and influence the aesthetic, economic, ethical, and moral values of everyday. Synthetic biological design shares tools, techniques, and paradigms with most modern design disciplines. Designers compose biological forms and functions running modeling and simulation software; order standardized biological parts from online libraries and databases; ask companies to synthesize gene products to prototype their designs; and build complex artifacts, applications and services that interface with human wants, needs, fears, and desires on a daily basis. The interaction with other design disciplines not only fuels biological design’s creative potential, but also introduces new limits. The object-, part-, and component-centric design methods inherited from analytical design and engineering are currently the prevailing paradigms that define the way we can imagine, represent, design, and fabricate living artifacts. In this paper, I argue that there is an increasing need to diversify the approaches to modern biological design. I present a series of abstractions that define the units of biological design and become the basis of new biological products and applications. These representational paradigms not only inform the design process, but, more importantly, determine the perception of the synthetic living and its use and function within the broader values of the society. My overall goal is to discuss the current research within biochemical design space and point out the emerging undercurrents that can lead design research into more discursive directions.

 

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