IDEO Design Research Method: Safeguarding DIYBiology


For my IDEO Design Research Method, I used the card ‘collage.’ The activity involves having participants create a visual representation of the various sides of an issue. I chose this method because it allows for a secondary method of visual mapping, alongside the ecosystem map. While the ecosystem map does a good job of identifying the various stakeholders and how they are affiliated with the issue, in my case safeguarding DIYBiology, it doesn’t hold much space for identifying how and why relationships form between various actors.

To create this collage I spoke, separately, with two members of a DIYBio space in Seattle as well as a biology graduate student at MIT.  I asked them to provide some images or ideas on the various sub-communities and a little bit about how those sub-communities interact with one another. I then compiled the common themes and insights from those conversations into this collage. It was interesting to see where these sub-communities are in conversation with one another. For example, the biomedical and security communities both generate information hazards, and must decide whether or not to disclose them. In practice, this sometimes looks like the body hackers who have to ensure that protocols for implants (like RFID chips) are safe enough to be used in what are often not medical grade settings. Likewise, security communities make decisions on how much to disclose about what is within the realm of possibility using biology. Along another vector, biomedical communities inspire and are inspired by ideas generated from artists working in DIYBiology spaces. Broadly, these relationships are worthwhile to document because they provide potential avenues for intervention. Having an understanding of how information travels between communities allows for easier downstream adoption of practices because it uses pre-existing tracks.

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