Contributing Editor, Platypus, The CASTAC Blog
Rebecca is a visual and medical anthropologist studying laboratory research in the medical sciences and bioinformatics in Japan.
Contributions to Platypus, The CASTAC Blog
Algorithms are tools of divination. Like cowry shells, scapular bones, or spiders trapped under a pot, algorithms are marshaled to detect and relay invisible patterns; to bring to light a truth which is out there, but which cannot ordinarily be seen. At the outset, we imagine divination is a means to answer questions, whether in diagnosis of past events or for the prediction and guidance of future outcomes, choices or actions (Ascher 2002, 5). Yet, divination has an equally potent capacity to absorb the burdens of responsibility, to refigure accountability and, in so doing, to liberate certain paths of social action. (more…) (read more...)
It was really a miracle that he was able to function. He had accumulated so much shit, it was starting to get concerning, or would have, if there had been anyone to be concerned. As it was, all he was, was being practical. Weirdos hoard shit for god knows what reasons but he was keeping a collection of spares. Admittedly, there was a tight line one approaches when one, for example, collects spares for other spares or if you’re missing the very thing to donate parts for in the first place. But he was aware of that. Each time a new thing came into the house, he would reflect on that line. It was a dotted line, like those where you’d put your signature or tear along. Which one it was, that’s an open discourse, to be negotiated anew. As of right now, there was a more practical concern. The (read more...)
It is currently held, not without certain uneasiness, that 90% of human DNA is ‘junk.’ The renowned Cambridge molecular biologist, Sydney Brenner, makes a helpful distinction between ‘junk’ and ‘garbage.’ Garbage is something used up and worthless which you throw away; junk is something you store for some unspecified future use. (Rabinow, 1992, 7-8) In the bioscience lab near Tokyo where I did my ethnographic study, the researchers taught me how to do PCR experiments. This was before Covid when almost everyone came to know what PCR was, or at least, what kind of instrumental information it could be good for. The lab was working with mouse models, although I never got to see them in their cages. But the researcher I was shadowing showed me how to put the mouse tail clippings she collected into small tubes. She hated cutting tails, by the way, and preferred to take ear punches (read more...)