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Archiving and Innovating Diversity: Cybergenomics Meets The Order of Things

Date: 29 May 2009 Time: 9.00 - 17.30 -||- Venue: Natural History Museum, London

Genomic and digital technologies prove to be rapidly reconfiguring the cultures and practices of the natural and life sciences. Visions of improved futures - whether these be healthy human bodies or biologically diverse natural environments - seem to develop in tandem with stringent methods to ensure both standardisation and ubiquity (of information and practice). An assumption often left unquestioned is the apparent need to speed up and democratise the creation, harvesting and circulation of information/method/technology in order to pave the way for improvement and salvation.

Nowhere is this set of conditions and expectations more evident than in the taxonomic and biodiversity sciences - those approaches seen as pivotal to the ordering, naming and hence understanding of the diversity of the natural world. The taxonomic community has recently been shaken up with the introduction of a very particular kind of cyber-genomic development, DNA barcoding - an innovation which seeks to speed up the identification and indexing of all global biodiversity as a prerequisite for avoiding apocalyptic loss.

The aim of this conference is to share insights developed through sociological/anthropological research into the Barcoding of Life Initiative with others interested in similar and different fields of (genomic) techno-scientific innovation. By bringing broader insights to bear upon this case-study in contemporary systematics, we expect the conference to open out and explore wider trends concerning cybergenomic innovation.

Issues to be raised and explored include:

  • visions of 'Big Science' in the systematic, nature-protection and life sciences;
  • similarity and difference in relation to past and present innovatory practices;
  • the tensions between standardisation for globality, speed and productivity, with recognition of diversity and contingency;
  • new (and old) materialities in play;
  • political economy and the innovating sciences;
  • new rhetorics, publics and end-users;
  • changing epistemic and other forms of (bio-)value.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Geoffrey C. Bowker; Centre for Science, Technology and Society, Santa Clara University
  • Rebecca Ellis; Geography Department, Lancaster University
  • Staffan Muller-Wille; ESRC Genomics Network, University of Exeter
  • Bronwyn Parry; Geography Department, Queen Mary, University of London
  • Sujeevan Ratnasingham; Informatics Lead, Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding
  • David Schindel; Executive Secretary, Consortium for the Barcoding of Life, Smithsonian Institution
  • Claire Waterton; Sociology Department, Lancaster University
  • Brian Wynne; CESAGen , Lancaster University

Event website:


Who can attend: Internal


Further information

Associated staff: Rebecca Ellis, Claire Waterton

Associated projects: Taxonomy at a Crossroads: Science, Policy and Publics in Biodiversity

Organising departments and research centres: Sociology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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