DIS’12 Workshop: (DIY)biology, Designing for Open Source Science (June 2012, Newcastle UK)

Date: June 12, 2012
Location: Newcastle, UK
Website: http://staceyk.org/diybioworkshop
Deadline for workshop submissions: March 16, 2012

DIYbio (Do It Yourself Biology) is a growing community of biologists, artists, engineers and hobbyists who pursue biology projects outside of professional laboratories. (DIY)bio projects range from gardening and experiments with food, to creating biosensors, genetically modifying organisms or building biology equipment from off the shelf parts. As these developments continue to expand science practice beyond professional settings and into hackspaces, art studios and private homes, human computer interaction (HCI) research is presented with a host of new opportunities and concerns.

Our one-day DIS’12 workshop will bring together a diverse group of designers and HCI researchers, as well as biologists, bioartists, and members of the DIYbio community to critically re-envision the role HCI might play at the intersection of biology, computation and DIY. We will engage directly with DIYbio initiatives to explore the materials, practices and challenges of garage biology. Drawing on presentations from participants who work with organic materials, hands-on biology activities (such as extracting DNA), and structured discussions, we hope to address themes such as: opportunities and implications for integrating organic materials into interactive systems; technologies that support and hinder public engagement with science; and HCI’s role in the public discourse around bioethics and biosafety.

March 16, 2012: submissions due
April 16, 2012: accepted submissions notified
June 12, 2012: workshop held in Newcastle, UK


We invite submissions using one of the following formats:

  • Position paper in DIS archival format (maximum 2 pages)
  • An example (photograph/video and description) of a prior (DIY)biology project
  • A creative proposal for a biology project or design exercise

In addition, participants are asked to submit a brief (200 word) biography and photo. Submissions from underrepresented disciplines in the HCI community will be particularly welcome (e.g., biology, art, anthropology, literature, philosophy, political science).

Submissions may be sent by email to stace@cmu.edu by March 16, 2012.


Stacey Kuznetsov, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, US
Alex S. Taylor, Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK
Eric Paulos, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, US
Carl DiSalvo, School of Literature, Communication and Culture, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, US
Tad Hirsch, School of Design at the University of Washington, US


Goals and motivations

What are the goals and motivations behind DIY biology? How do interactive systems support (or hinder) these?

DIYbio tools materials

How are materials acquired, repurposed and/or assembled? How do materials (their availability or lack thereof) shape DIY biology practices?  How can novel technologies facilitate ‘open access’ to materials outside of professional labs?

Challenges and constraints

What are the challenges associated with DIYbio and how do communities work around them? How do new groups address the practical issues of acquiring labspace, managing resources, nurturing relationships with professionals, and building momentum (i.e. enticing ongoing biology projects)? What are the broader political and legal constraints around practicing biology outside of professional settings and how do hobbyists work around these?

Knowledge and expertise sharing

What new mechanisms might enable knowledge sharing in biology laboratories (DIY or professional)? How can new forms of information be integrated into and/or shared during wetlab experimentation?

Public engagement

What mechanisms and tools are used to engage members of the general public in biology projects? How do DIYbio practitioners reconcile public concerns regarding the safety and ethics of their practice? What new technologies might emerge to initiate dialogues between biology practitioners and stakeholders amongst the general public?

Ethics and safety

Practically speaking, individuals pursuing biology outside of professional settings often do not have access to tools and infrastructures for addressing biosafety questions such as disposal, sterilization or invasive species. More broadly, biology hobbyists must consider a host questions regarding the ethics of their work (such as, for instance, the ethics of harvesting or experimenting with living organisms). How can HCI and design interventions be used to foreground questions of ethics and safety and facilitate public discourse around DIY biology?

Bio-electronic hybrids

What are the challenges and opportunities for interactive systems that incorporate organic materials as inputs and outputs?

About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is http://deseng.ryerson.ca/~fil.

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