DIYbiology, Mediation, Institution

In this paper presentation, I share preliminary reflections from an ongoing learning and practice-based experience as a DIYbiologist in a biotech community lab based in Brooklyn. I introduce the lab as a milieu allowing for particular, technologically-enabled practices and discourses to unfold. These situated mediations bring about potentials to rethink, interrogate and dislocate a changing set of norms and constraints in disciplinary biology, engineering and computing (see Roosth, 2010, Delfanti, 2011 for more details).

I find these practices 1) useful to delineate spaces of contention in our present and future biotechnological political economy and 2) helpful in allowing us to rethink terms such as milieu and mediation. In my practice, these questions actualize as a search for ways in which DIYbiology also opens spaces allowing for molecular phenomena to be individuated otherwise, institutionally-framed and material circulation networks to be re-routed, as well as issues of property and selfhood to be re-imagined, intensified and problematized.

Working within a para-sitic environment, I also look for how, in return, the emergence of DIYbiology and biohacking owes a lot to institutions, and how amateur biologists are still seldom, and in a challenging way, cut off from the constraints, norms and standardizing effects of “big science”. I conclude my presentation by discussing how this interplay is particularly relevant in informing ways to learn, think and do contemporary science and technology in para-institutional milieux.


Sarah Choukah is enrolled in Montreal University’s Joint Doctoral Program in Communication under professor Thierry Bardini’s supervision. Her interests include conducting experiments in DIYbiology, playing with microcomputers such as the Raspberry pi, molecular gastronomy, time-lapse photography and writing. Her research focuses on the displacements of biotechnological practices and discourses. Sarah is a member of the Radical Empiricism Workshop as well as the SNS lab in Montreal.