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The rise of biohacking: Tracing the emergence and evolution of DIY biology through online discussions

Abstract : This article traces the rise and evolution of do-it-yourself biology, also known as biohacking, by analysing its main discussion forum, launched in 2008. Our methods combine three tools (Extractify, L@me, and iRaMuTeQ), a quantitative data analysis, and qualitative content analysis. Our analysis shows that the forum serves as a nexus for a variety of concerns: discuss science and technology, organise meetings, create groups, make announcements, reflect on issues such as ethics, law and regulation. Despite this heterogeneity, most discussions concern knowledge and equipment: one of the main functions of the forum is finding, sharing, documenting and developing techniques and protocols to do DIY biology. Our analysis further shows that in its beginnings, the forum was centered on one single city and that organisational matters were prominent in discussions. But with the rise of laboratories and local groups dedicated to DIY biology, the flow and content of communication has evolved. We identify a key turning point in the years 2013/2014, marked by a regional and economic structuration of the movement and a decrease in the overall traffic on the forum. We thus argue that the emergence of DIY biology has known two distinct phases: a phase of constitution (2008–2012) and a phase of maturation and autonomisation (from 2013 onwards). While the first phase is marked by the local dimensions of people's engagement and by exchanges of knowledge and methods, the second phase is marked by more strategic efforts to sustain and institutionalize the community and by a more reflexive stance concerning its autonomy and positionality.
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https://hal-mines-paristech.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03020068
Contributor : Morgan Meyer <>
Submitted on : Monday, November 23, 2020 - 4:38:15 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 7:42:03 PM

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  • HAL Id : hal-03020068, version 1

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Morgan Meyer, Frédéric Vergnaud. The rise of biohacking: Tracing the emergence and evolution of DIY biology through online discussions. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, 2020, 160. ⟨hal-03020068⟩

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