Biodigital publics: personal genomes as digital media artifacts

O'Riordan, Kate (2013) Biodigital publics: personal genomes as digital media artifacts. Science as Culture, 22 (4). pp. 516-539. ISSN 1470-1189

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The recent proliferation of personal genomics and direct-to-consumer (DTC) genomics has attracted much attention and publicity. Concern around these developments has mainly focused on issues of biomedical regulation and hinged on questions of how people understand genomic information as biomedical and what meaning they make of it. However, this publicity amplifies genome sequences which are also made as internet
texts and, as such, they generate new reading publics. The practices around the generation, circulation and reading of genome scans do not just raise questions about biomedical regulation, they also provide the focus for an exploration of how contemporary public participation in genomics works. These issues around the public features of DTC genomic testing can be pursued through a close examination of the modes of one of the best known providers—23andMe. In fact, genome sequences circulate as digital artefacts and, hence, people are addressed by them. They are read as texts, annotated and written about in browsers, blogs and wikis. This activity also yields content for media coverage which addresses an indefinite public in line with Michael Warner’s conceptualisation of publics. Digital genomic texts promise empowerment, personalisation and community, but this promise may obscure the compliance and proscription associated with these forms. The kinds of interaction here
can be compared to those analysed by Andrew Barry. Direct-to-consumer genetics companies are part of a network providing an infrastructure for genomic reading publics and this network can be mapped and examined to demonstrate the ways in which this formation both exacerbates inequalities and offers possibilities for participation in biodigital culture.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0435 History of sociology. History of sociological theory
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Depositing User: Kate O'Riordan
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2014 10:50
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2019 01:09

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