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  • Open access
  • 16 Reads
Biohacking: New Do-It-Yourself Practices as Technoscientific Work between Freedom and Necessity

If one contends that ‘hacking’ has become a crucial cultural practice in – and, to some extent, in opposition to – digital capitalism (Levy 1984/2010; Himanen 2001; Söderberg 2007; Coleman and Golub 2008), one may argue that ‘biohacking’, i.e. the extension of this practice to medical and biotechnologies and the life sciences, would constitute a key driver of the informatisation of the realm of life, as driven by processes of technoscientific convergence in the information paradigm (Castells 1996). Unlike older visions of a globalisation and of a unification of the human species enabled by technoscientific progress (Coenen 2014), this overall process of information displays a Janus face (Hofkirchner and Fuchs 2003) insofar as the aspirations for global technological integration and universalist political hopes are tending to fall apart.

Due to the rise of biohacking, the overall process of an informatisation of life itself – which is, in turn, propelled by the informatisation of biological knowledge and technologies – is about to incorporate sections of the social world that extend beyond the traditional boundaries of academia and capitalist industry. As in hacking more generally (Coleman and Golub 2008), the moral visions in the biohacking movement(s) not only reveal broader contradictions, but at times offer critical perspectives and tangible alternatives to the ethico-political features of digital capitalism and to the overarching process of informatisation.

‘Biohacking’, however, is a notoriously ambiguous term: some biohacking practitioners and observers subsume to ‘biohacking’ all instances of use of modern biological and medical knowledge or technologies by groups and individuals who adhere to a hacker ethos as these take place outside the confines of academia and traditional capitalist industry. This, then, includes the do-it-yourself (DIY) application of knowledge in genetics and biotechnologies (Delfanti 2013) as well as experimental uses of a broad range of techniques for the modification of the human body (Duarte and Park 2014). However, these two sets of material practices have given rise to two distinct socio-cultural movements. While both are often called ‘biohackers’ (and in fact partly overlap with respect to practices and actor networks), their obvious differences have also given rise to distinct designations. While the former movement is widely known as ‘DIY biology’, the latter are designated variously as ‘grinders’, ‘DIY transhumanists’ and ‘cyborgs’.

In view of the Janus-faced process of informatisation and the similarly Janus-faced role of ‘hacking’ in digital capitalism, the present paper provides an overview on differences and commonalities between the two movements (‘DIY biology’ and ‘cyborgism’) by focusing on selected political, socio-economic and philosophical aspects. It is argued that, notwithstanding significant differences between the two movements, both exhibit a distinct coupling of late-capitalist subjectivity with a re-evaluation of self-created physical spaces (Kostakis, Niaros and Giotitsas 2015) as loci of collective curiosity, with new visions of the commons in the digital era (as, for example, in the notion of ‘biocommons’), and with emancipatory notions of technoscientific progress, thereby situating technoscientific work between the realms of freedom and necessity in novel ways.

  • Open access
  • 9 Reads
Is digitalization dehumanization? - Dystopic Traits of Digitalization

Most phenomena in the world have both positive and negative aspects (pluses and minuses). This is also true of digitalization.

However, a lot more emphasis lately has been placed on the positive potentials of digitalization than on the negative potentials and already occurring negative effects.

Digitalization is supposed to bring increased efficiency leading to greater speed and lower costs. The question is greater speed and lower costs for whom?

In this paper, I will discuss the idea that perfectly well functioning social practices, like human face-to-face communication, shopping, banking, medical care, education, administration, policing etc should be ”disrupted” (a recent buzz word) and exchanged for digital services, supposedly bringing greater efficiency through increased speed and lower costs.

We will study a number of such examples, coming, for example, from shopping, where customers are asked to register what they buy themselves and then pay with a plastic card, registering their purchase for the benefit of the shop owners, credit card company and bank, or from academic lecturing, where knowledgeable persons lecturing can be exchanged for a digital learning environment, where students learn on their own.

We will pose the question: ”When is digitalization warranted and when not?” When is it better to trust established human practices than to disrupt and substitute them with digital replacements. When should we not fix what is not broken?

Some of the areas that will be examined are:

  1. Administration
  2. Banking
  3. Shopping
  4. Education
  5. Health care
  6. Security
  7. Privacy
  8. Human face-to-face communication


How can we digitalize with care, avoiding disruption of some of the best practices evolved by mankind?

  • Open access
  • 9 Reads
On the Use and Abuse of Geopolitics

Originally, geopolitics was a theory that intended to conceptualize strategic insight into the world-wide political action of Great Powers governing their foreign policies. Hence, it was essentially a product of the late colonialism. In the tradition of Spengler and Toynbee, organicistic theories of the state dominated at the time, and authors like Kjellén and Mackinder followed this line in principle, not without influence onto the further development in Europe including the First World War as well as the Second. In more recent time, the US-American policy in the sense of Kissinger and especially Brzezinski continued this conception in one way or another. In the meantime, mainly during the eighties of the twentieth century, authors like Agnew and Toal have introduced what is called “critical geopolitics” trying to reconcile constructivist as well as realistic approaches to political theory and liberate them from organicistic ingredients by introducing post-colonial and cultural aspects, respectively. Some consequences are discussed here in detail, with a particular view to present-day populism.

  • Open access
  • 13 Reads
Savage Thought and Totalitarianism

The concept of “savage thought” in the sense of Claude Lévi-Strauss is being discussed and applied to the magical context within which the discourse of the new right-wing movements is embedded gaining the quality of what we call “populism” for short. The role of digital media is discussed then in terms of a massive concentration of ideological information flow in the public domain. It is shown in particular that recent developments as to an enhancement of magical world-views can be re-traced to the explicit denial of the complexity that is necessarily encountered in the progressing motion of social evolution. The rational discourse of facticity is replaced then by the irrational discourse of mythology in order to find means of relief, discharge, and exculpation at the same time.

  • Open access
  • 7 Reads
Truth and visual discourse on Social Media

Discussions on fake news, alternative facts and the post-factual age demonstrate that we still expect a certain concept of truth on Social Media. At the same time, it is highly questionable if digital sharing-platforms with user-created content are the right place to provide reliable information. Furthermore, we have to consider the impact of visual evidence on irrational discourse, as  information technology is offering images in ever-increasing quality and visual issues. I will concentrate on the role of images in Social Media and open a historical perspective: Social Media create an artificial reality, and it is a commonplace that in artificial realities truth and fiction cannot be distinguished. Can an image of reality that obstructs reality transport truth? Or should Social Media rather be seen as poetry?

  • Open access
  • 15 Reads
Artificial Dance

Art has always had the ambition to closely relate to human nature and culture –both by reflection and by pushing boundaries and challenging conventions. What happens when the human part is replaced by or complemented by an artificially human, machine intelligence? Artificial intelligence is on the way of fundamentally changing the world and will be permeating almost every part of our lives. It forces us to revisit many fundamental questions in not only philosophy and ethics but also art. Within art, dance is of special interest as it is intimately tied to the human body and expresses an embodied experience where both intellect and emotion have many degrees of freedom.

“Artificial dance” is the transdisciplinary exploration of AI and contemporary dance. Choreographer Louise Crnkovic-Friis presents an exhibition and performance that shows one form of collaboration between a human and AI choreographer. It is exploring two broad categories of research that relate to the artistic practice. The first one is the use of AI as a creativity catalyst – as a source of inspiration for the creative process. The second one is the exploration of hybrid choreography – creative collaboration between human and artificial intelligence. It also looks at the expectation vs perception of external viewers when they have been informed (or not) that an AI has been involved in creating the work. The performance and exhibition are a continuation of the work presented in the article “Generative Choreography using Deep Learning” at the ICCC 2016 conference. This project is supported by Konstnärsnämnden and Peltarion.