Synthetic biology is a newly emerging interdisciplinary field that aligns engineering principles with biological equipment for adapting life. This article describes an incremental rhetorical experiment to insert human-focused (ethical) equipment into a technical project that adapted a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat/Cas9 gene-editing system. This ethical equipment was inserted via a contemporaneous study of the public instantiation of synthetic biology. The findings from this experiment show that by enacting multiple representations, accounts of synthetic biology have elicited similar discourse forms and actions as prior emergent technologies. But the discourses associated with synthetic biology have not (yet) coalesced into stabilized forms, suggesting that synthetic biology has yet to be instantiated as formal practice, so its meanings remain alterable. This article concludes by documenting an attempt to influence this emerging interdisciplinary field with an integrated ethical narrative.
Codding, K., & Faber, B. (2019). Scientific emergence and instantiation part ii: Assembling synthetic biology 2006–2015. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 33(3), 268–291. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651919834981
*denotes a WPI undergraduate student author