CISYNBIO: Cinema and Synthetic Biology
Summary: Synthetic biology presents one of the most dynamic fields of biological research. Itsrevolutionary approach of applying tools and methods of engineering disciplines to biology as well as the recent rapid progress towards the design and creation of artificial DNA putsynthetic biology in the news, although the effective media presence of the field still remains rather limited and irregular. As a consequence, public awareness is very slowly but constantly growing. Issues and elements typically associated to synthetic biology, such as the idea of artificial life creation and "real" engineering of life also appears in a number of movies, such as Jurassic Park, Terminator, Spider Man or films dealing with the myths of Frankenstein or Golem. Given the blockbuster character of some of these films, and hence their wide popularity, they are likely to influence the growing public perception of synthetic biology and thereby to emphasize or even generate societal fears and hopes towards this area of research and its (un)expected outcomes. The aim of our project "Cinema and Synthetic Biology" is to analyse the role of films as a way to communicate major concepts and ideas of synthetic biology and convey public awareness. The focus will hereby lie, on the one hand, on the analysis of popular cinema and television movies that cover comparable aspects of synthetic biology, and, on the other hand, on the organisation and analysis of an independent science film festival on synthetic biology, called "Bio:Fiction".The central questions that will guide the analysis of the films will be: Which aspects and issues of synthetic biology are primarily approached by films? What image and impression is conveyed to the spectator? What are the hopes and fears brought up by the films? To achieve the stated aim, the project will start with a survey on the state-of-the-art of synthetic biology (definition, areas of research, risks and opportunities) that will be the basis for an analytical toolkit used for the analysis of the selected films. The analysis will focus on theway societal concerns towards synthetic biology are addressed. These results will be completed by the analysis of the contributions to the low-budget science film festival (organised by our project) where young and independent film makers will be invited to present - by means of short films - their understanding of synthetic biology and its expected societal impact. Towards the end of the project we will provide an info-package for highschools in order to assist and encourage teachers to use film clips as educative tool in the classroom to explain the concept of synthetic biology to their students, and to discuss its societal impact.
Principal investigator: Dr. Markus Schmidt
For more information see: CISYNBIO website.