As a comprehensive directory of biopunk and DIYbio resources, this list is continiously updated. New items are marked with a icon. If you would like to suggest an addition, please send an email to the address listed at the bottom of this page.
Updated: 30 May 2012
Biohackers LA (Lab)
Biopunk Discussion Forums
Cyberpunked: Journal of Science, Technology, & Society
The Dark Laboratory
DIYbio News (OWW)
MIT Registry of Standard Biological Parts
The Neurohacker Quarterly (Blog)
Our Biotech Future
Synthetic Biology Primer (OWW)
Synthetic Biology Project
*links will be replaced by more relevant groups as soon as they become available
Biohacking: An Overview
Do-It-Yourself Biology (MITworld)
The Implications of Synthetic Biology (MITworld)
Introduction to Biology (MITocw)
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Biopunk (a portmanteau word synthesizing "biotechnology" and "punk") is a term used to describe: 1. A hobbyist who experiments with DNA and other aspects of genetics. 2. A techno-progressive movement advocating open access to genetic information. 3. A science fiction genre that focuses on biotechnology and subversives.
Biopunk is a synonym for biohacker, a term used to describe a hobbyist who experiments with DNA and other aspects of genetics. A biohacker is similar to a computer hacker who creates and modifies computer software or computer hardware as a hobby (i.e., "wetware hacker"), but should not be confused with a bioterrorist, whose sole intent is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants (in the same way a computer hacker should not be confused with the more popular, yet erroneous, use of the term, describing someone who spreads computer viruses or breaks into computers systems for malicious purposes). Some promoters[who?] and critics[who?] of biohacking argue that--using a laptop computer, published gene sequence information, and mail-order synthetic DNA--just about anyone has the potential to construct genes or entire genomes from scratch. However, this is not known to have occurred as of January 2007.
The biopunk movement is a small intellectual and cultural movement, which encompasses a growing number of scientists, artists, and cultural critics who are organizing to create public awareness of how genomic information, produced by bioinformatics, gets used and misused. On the basis of a presumed parallel between genetic and computational code, science journalist Annalee Newitz has called for open-sourcing of genomic databases and declared that "Free our genetic data!" is the rallying cry of the biopunk. Biological Innovation for Open Society is an example of an open-source initiative in biotechnology aiming to apply open license for biological innovation.
Self-described "transgenic artist" Eduardo Kac uses biotechnology and genetics to create provocative works that concomitantly revel in scientific techniques and critique them. In what is likely his most famous work, Alba, Kac collaborated with a French laboratory to procure a green-fluorescent rabbit: a rabbit implanted with a green fluorescent protein gene from a type of jellyfish in order for the rabbit to fluoresce green under ultraviolet light. The members of the Critical Art Ensemble have written books and staged multimedia performance interventions around this issue, including The Flesh Machine (focusing on in vitro fertilisation, surveillance of the body, and liberal eugenics) and Cult of the New Eve (analyzing the pseudoreligious discourse around new reproductive technologies). New School associate professor Eugene Thacker leads the Biotech Hobbyist collective and has written extensively on the field.[not in citation given]
Biologist, speculative-fiction author, and self-described biopunk, Meredith L. Patterson is known for her work on yogurt bacteria within the DIYbio community, as well as being the author of "A Biopunk Manifesto", which she delivered at the UCLA Center for Society and Genetics' symposium, "Outlaw Biology? Public Participation in the Age of Big Bio". This manifesto is modeled after "A Cypherpunk Manifesto" by Eric Hughes, which states the goals of the cypherpunk movement. The influence of the cypherpunks (a cyberpunk derivative like the biopunk subculture) on the biopunk community does not end there; Patterson's husband and long-time collaborator Len Sassaman was a cypherpunk contemporary of Hughes. Patterson and Sassaman have worked together on a number of biohacking projects and heavily promoted the continued legality of citizen science, both on moral and practical grounds.
The biopunk movement is also a political movement. Some members have been jailed for their work with harmless microbes, such as artist and activist Steve Kurtz.
Biopunk science fiction is a subgenre of cyberpunk fiction that portrays the underground side of the "biotech revolution" that, in the 1990s and 2000s, was expected to begin having a profound impact on humanity in the first half of the 21st century. Biopunk stories explore the struggles of individuals or groups, often the product of human experimentation, against a backdrop of totalitarian governments or megacorporations which misuse biotechnologies as means of social control or profiteering. Unlike cyberpunk, it builds not on information technology, but on synthetic biology. Like in postcyberpunk fiction, individuals are usually modified and enhanced not with cyberware, but by genetic manipulation. A common feature of biopunk fiction is the "black clinic", which is a laboratory, clinic, or hospital that performs illegal, unregulated, or ethically-dubious biological modification and genetic engineering procedures. Many features of biopunk fiction have their roots in William Gibson's Neuromancer, one of the first cyberpunk novels.
One of the prominent writers in this field is Paul Di Filippo, though he called his collection of such stories ribofunk, with the first element being taken from the term ribosome.
The 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain shares many elements with later biopunk fiction, though lacking the dystopian view of society underpinning most books representative of the cyberpunk genre.
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