mute on Tue, 5 Aug 1997 16:11:30 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> mute: Hybrid WorkSpace: technoscience


mute is a UK based magazine about technology and culture. We are
participating in the Hybrid WorkSpace at Documenta during August.
What follows is our first posting; some general information, and the
preliminary list of discussion ideas for our stay. We hope they're of
interest. If you want to mail or email us about this project, please
get in touch at the address in the signature or you can go to the
--technoscience-- newsgroup at




Hybrid WorkSpace
block 7
Sun, 17.8. - Tue, 26.8.

Technoscience. Vocabulary, Politics, Practice

mute is looking at 'technoscience' during its stay in the WorkSpace.
As this word brings together so many different spheres, we thought
it would be a good idea to focus on several core topics. These are
all connected to the privatisation, virtualisation or
militarisation of medicine and biology, though sometimes in
tangential ways. We will talk about these topics by looking at
contemporary events, biotechnology companies, academic
institutions, food, medical and agricultural products. Examples
would be the recently passed directives for the European Parliament
about the patenting of gene and biotechnological research. The
decision (to allow for the legal protection of gene research,
carried out for companies or academies) was universally seen as a
landmark development and one that falls very much in line with
developments outlined in the book from which we took our block's
theme (Donna Haraway's "Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.

We'd also  like to talk about the ways in which a defense of
natural integrity and ecological 'health' can serve conservative
and 'xenophobic' ends. Biotechnology is not, by default, under
criticism. Since much of the defense of the recent European
directives, for example, came from patients with fatal or
debilletating diseases, serious consideration needs to be given to
the problematic contradictions inherent in many of the knee-jerk
responses to cloning, gene technology etc. It is important to look
at these phenomena from the premise that the histories and
processes from which they develop have already
irrevocably altered us, by the food that we eat, the air that we
breathe and the medical aid most of us (especially in 'first'
world countries) have received since we were born.

Several concurrent trends, linked also to cyberfeminist concerns
(see dx newsgroup 'The Old Boys Network'), are under consideration.
These trends are being interpreted by many as at once productive
and oppressive - due to their challenging of oppressive orders
while at the same time sustaining, even intensifying them. Broadly,
they are linked to the ways in which biotechnology, gene
manipulation, nanotechnology and new medicine enable both the
maintenance, and creation/birthing, of 'normalized' bodies - and
the ways in which they enable their mutation, mixing and
technologisation (prosthetics, nanotech-robots, non-invasive
surgery/administering of medicine, IVF treatment, skin grafting,
bone extensions and bone marrow transplants, sex changes etc.).
Clearly, these are not simple either/or questions nor do they
suggest a body-centric essentialism, but since they impact on
identity, subjectivity, societies and economies they constitute one
faultline that can function as a starting point for discussion. If
modern genetic, surgical and chemical technologies are being
implemented to attain new levels of homogenisation, if the body being
aimed for is the white, healthy, virus free one - one that has
clear-access all through the insurance and health-check ladder, we
feel it is important to consider strategies for understanding,
questioning and disrupting the systems that nurture it, ones that
operate at personal, local, and global levels.


mute will be at the WorkSpace from 17th - 26th of August. In
addition to its editorial team (Simon Worthington, Josephine Berry
and Pauline van Mourik Broekman) our group will consist of a
number of writers, editors, artists and theorists, some of whom
will be in Kassel physically, some of whom will contribute 'long
distance'. Much in the keeping of the WorkSpace's setup, we hope
to use small webworks, radio (online and off) and the newsgroup to
discuss our topic. The group includes: Tom Paulus, Herman
Asselberghs, Verena Conley, Armin Medosch, Manu Luksch, Josephine
Bosma, Kate Rich (and BIT: the Bureau of Inverse Technology), Suzy
Treister, Caroline Bassett, Lev Manovich, Critical Art Ensemble and
Matt Fuller.


The following topics will function as a start to the discussion.
If you'd like to get in touch with us about possible additions,
questions or contributions, please go to the relevant WorkSpace
newsgroup ( - technoscience) or
email us ( Soon we will also post a schedule
and set of aims for the stay itself, including a list of possible
interviewees from the Documenta 100 speakers series and German
critics of biotechnology cultures.


The role of consortia and global/continent-wide trade
organisations in standardising companies' approach to the market,
forging links with academia, lobbying government and presenting
the biotech industries' activities and products to the press.
Extending into the ways in which the success of these consortia,
heavily Western-dominated, extend and consolidate Western
orientation of research and scientific methodologies by the logic
of being 'the best and only' (This isn't actually representative
of the amount and/or quality of biological and biotechnological
research being done in '1st, 2nd and 3rd' world countries, but an
artificial imbalance tied to global economic hierarchies, which
prevent certain findings being published speedily and consistently
enough to make a significant impact on accepted
medical/biotechnological standards and protocols.).
        Although it might be that there are other organisations that
are more representative of this aggressive, though self-proclaimed
'communitarian' and 'social-minded' approach, two that we have
come across whose tenets and rationale we are interested in
looking at are: BIO (in the US - which calls itself the global
leader) and EuropaBio, a similar 700+ member group based in

"The Biotechnology Industry Organization is the largest trade
organization to serve and represent the emerging biotechnology
industry in the United States and around the globe. The
organization's leadership and service-oriented guidance have
helped advance the industry and bring the benefits of
biotechnology to the people of the world."
(from the BIO website:


From being an arguably negligible factor in military combat,
'nature' and ecological directives have managed to undergo an
identity-rehaul to become justifiers for military activity. In
the absence of a unified or at least consistent ideological
'enemy', sustaining global ecological 'health' (as defined by
national and international governmental organisations) becomes
justification for hostile action as well as budget maintenance. We
are interested in looking at the ways in which this new reasoning
seems more resistant to argument than was the political one. In
the same way that 'life itself' is resistant to being understood
as 'constructed', nature here is conceptualised as something which
is disconnected from the acts of the self-same military apparatus
that claims to be protecting it.

"With the evaporation of the communist threat, the business of
international security is no longer hedged around by ideological
values, 'free' versus 'totalitarian. Increasingly, security
overviews and wargame scenarios focus on the new tensions and
conflicts caused by environmental 'threats': shortages of natural
resources, water and oil, cross-border pollution, including
radioactivity and acid rain, the environmental underbelly of
North-South trade, resource degradation, and population control in
the new migrant economy generated by economic restructuring."
(Andrew Ross in "The Future is a Risky Business", FutureNatural,



How does thinking on the vicissitudes of global economic (and
ecological) patterns - e.g. their non-linearity - affect how we
understand the effectiveness of something like 'risk management'.
Can the global economies/ecologies in which biotechnological
products are researched, financed and sold be forecast -
let alone steered - in a manner that the confident rhetoric of
management suggests.


Recently at the ICA in London -at a symposium called Parallel Space-
McKenzie Wark talked about global events which are so drastic
in their effects that they catapult us into a space in which new
philosophical, political and personal trajectories can be
suggested. He cited the stock market crash of '87 as
such an example and talked about the way in which it catapulted us
back to 1929 and consequent analyses of historical, economic and
social parallels. In England, the BSE crisis triggered the kind of
serious discussions of alternative farming you would never have
found in the mainstream media had there not been an immense
crisis. Yet, it now feels like things are back to normal. How can
'decision spaces' be harnessed in more effective ways and why do we
need them to re-think our political structures?


*food. Supermarkets as new multinational players.
*chemical fusions: ubiquitous chemicals like organo-phosphates are
affecting the human organism in ways that simple dietary
exclusions can not prevent.
*intersections of research into artificial (silicon based) life
and biotechnology.
*information: opposition/promotion/networking
use of the net and mainstream media channels by independents,
state and corporate sectors in relation to technoscience.
*human/non-human relations re-engineered by biotechnologies and
modern medicine.
*human rights/animal rights/biotech rights
*move from info-economy to info-flesh economy (see contemporary
venture capital investments in biotechnology companies etc.)
*consequences of multinationals' moves from exploration/sales of
non-renewable to renewable energy.
*philosophical models and accompanying terminologies for
understanding the new organisations of power. (also: how terms
circulate in intellectual and commercial spheres. Though I doubt
this one can have been directly inspired by it, Foucault's
"biopower" can now be found at "The Original Six Day PowerDiet"

Some related URLs:

*JAX Mice Price List
*The Norwegian Reference Centre for Laboratory Animal Science &
*Guide to Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
*Genetically Engineered Mouse
*Molecular Biology Products
*Molecular Biology Links
*Resources for Genomics, Molecular Biology and Evolutionary

And: (Human Genome)
(misc. Gene technology)
(Genome mapping of sheep) (Biotechnology regulation)

Hoping to hear from you.


mute is a quarterly journal begun in the winter of 1994. The
publication deals with the impact of digital technologies on
culture and society. It participates with a community of artists,
programmers and theorists who contribute essays, reviews,
polemical shorts and fiction. (see original 'technoscience' text

-----mute8 out 14-8-97, deadline mute9 14-9-97
---------mute: 2nd floor, 135-139 Curtain Rd, LONDON EC2A 3BX.
----------------------------T: +44 171 613 4743/ F: +44 171 613 4052
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