Lecture: James King, "Designing biotechnology - a new approach to genetics"

Past Event

11 May 2011, 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

(Photo courtesy of James King and Daisy Ginsberg)

Speaker: James King (Lead Designer, Science Practice Ltd.)

Synthetic Biology is a new approach to genetics which applies engineering principles to biology in the hope of creating medicines, fuels, foods and other useful products.

As a designer, James King has worked with three different groups of synthetic biologists over the last two years. He has undertaken these collaborations for two reasons. The first is that synthetic biology is generating technologies which may have a huge impact on our everyday lives. We should therefore begin to understand what sorts of materials and processes will be made possible and how best to use them. The second is that the activity of design is integral to synthetic biology - a field in which researchers quite literally design the objects of their study. In this respect, designers might have something to contribute in an analogous way to the biologists, engineers and computer scientists who have been pivotal in shaping the field so far.

James King is a designer working in the biological sciences.He imagines what might be possible if technologies developed in the lab become adopted by people in their everyday lives. This results in objects, films and images that are exhibited in order to elicit debate on the desirable and undesirable qualities of future biotechnologies. James' work has been shown widely. Most notably in MoMA’s Design and The Elastic Mind exhibition in 2008 and at the Wellcome Trust in 2010 and reproduced in many publications such as Wired, SEED and The Guardian. His work has been acquired for MoMA's permanent collection and has also been recently nominated for the Designs of the Year Award 2011. James has also presented his work at several scientific meetings and conferences throughout 2009 and 2010. The most rewarding aspect of these collaborations has been the opportunity, not just to interpret scientific research, but also to contribute to it. The design process is an implicit but unrecognised aspect of the biological sciences. Through further collaborations and projects James aims to build an explicit role for design as part of scientific practice.