I attended Lejla Kucukalic’s lecture on Biotech to Biopunk: Science Fiction’s Visions of Genetics. Her lecture highlighted the reasons for the stereotypical portrayal of scientists in literature and media throughout history. In addition, her lecture discussed the push and pull relationship between science fiction and science, the controversy of biopunk, and more.
The term “biopunk” was foreign to me before attending the lecture. However, after the lecture the term was no longer strange to me. I did some further research on biopunks and learned that “biopunk” is a movement advocating open access to genetic information where biohackers can then experiment with DNA and genetics. I like the metaphors used to describe the people who identify themselves with the biopunk movement. They are called “biohackers” who “hack” the “software of life” (aka DNA). I found a great clip on a “Biopunk Manifesto” that I believe was took place in our very own CNSI building at UCLA:
In her lecture, Leijla proposed four kinds of scientific fictions of genetics:
1) Monster Narratives
2) Human Being Narratives
3) GMO Narratives
She described how scientists are usually described as lunatics throughout literature and never being “normal.” I agree with her that scientists have not really been portrayed fairly in literature and media however I can understand possibly why this stereotype was constructed. When science was practiced centuries ago, scientists did not have the knowledge or the technology we have today so they ran bizarre and unique experiments sometimes based on alchemy and pseudoscience. As a result society developed a biased opinion that scientist are “crazy” and perform dangerous experiments. However, in reality there is a fine line between genius and crazy. Scientists venture into the unknown to discover knowledge and in order to do so they are creative and do things that many may not understand. This doesn’t mean that it is okay for media and literature to stereotype scientists in such a derogatory way. Instead, they should be celebrating and positively portraying the genius of scientists who have made countless breakthroughs and contributions to today’s knowledge.
A Biopunk Manifesto. Perf. Meredith Patterson. YouTube.com. 10 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://youtu.be/Thn7d7-jywU>.
Hoisel, Tiago. Mad Scientist. Digital image. Mar. 2010. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://features.cgsociety.org/newgallerycrits/g34/304034/304034_1269613868_submedium.jpg>.
NPR Staff. "Biopunks Tinker With The Building Blocks Of Life : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio. N.p., 22 May 2011. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://www.npr.org/2011/05/22/136464041/biopunks-tinker-with-the-building-blocks-of-life>.
Patterson, Meredith. "A Biopunk Manifesto." Live Journal. N.p., 30 Jan. 2010. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://maradydd.livejournal.com/496085.html>.
Pickett, Ronald. "Scientist Stereotype: Is It Working For or Against You? - Lab Manager Magazine®." Lab Manager Magazine. N.p., 7 Apr. 2009. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://www.labmanager.com/?articles.view/articleNo/3324/article/Scientist-Stereotype--Is-It-Working-For-or-Against-You->.
Weise, Elizabeth. "DIY 'biopunks' want science in hands of people." USA Today. N.p., 1 June 2011. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2011-06-01-science-biopunk-hacker_n.htm>.
Wilson, Karina. "LURID: It's Alive! The Top 10 Mad Scientists of Literature! | LitReactor." LitReactor. N.p., 18 May 2012. Web. 26 May 2012. <http://litreactor.com/columns/lurid-mad-scientist-top-ten>.