The Bio:Fiction film festival: Sensing how a debate about synthetic biology might evolve

Markus Schmidt, Angela Meyer, Amelie Cserer

Synthetic biology (SB) is a new techno-scientific field surrounded by an aura of hope, hype and fear. Currently it is difficult to predict which way the public debate – and thus the social shaping of technology – is heading. With limited hard evidence at hand, we resort to a strategy that takes into account speculative design and diegetic prototyping, accessing the Bio:Fiction science film festival, and its 52 short films from international independent filmmakers. Our first hypothesis was that these films could be used as an indicator of a public debate to come. The second hypothesis was that SB would most likely not follow the debate around genetic engineering (framing technology as conflict) as assumed by many observers. Instead, we found good evidence for two alternative comparators, namely nanotechnology (technology as progress) and information technology (technology as gadget) as stronger attractors for an upcoming public debate on SB.

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