Science, Social Controversy and Art: An Interdisciplinary Exchange (SCN)

TERM: October 2009-September 2013

PROJECT LEADERS: Professors Sean Caulfield and Elizabeth Ingram (U of A)

CO-INVESTIGATOR: Professor, Timothy Caulfield (U of A)

AMOUNT: $200,000 (including Project Funding and Impact Grant Funding)

Popular culture representations of biotechnology in film, literature, print media, and art have a profound impact on public perceptions of biotechnology and, by extension, on policy debate and resulting regulatory frameworks. Similarly, the rise of emerging biotechnology has significantly impacted the contemporary art world, leading artists to adopt new media and approaches, and to create work that critically examines the impact of this technology on society. Thus, a dynamic and interdependent relationship exists between contemporary art production, popular culture, technological innovation, and policy debate. Science, Social Controversy and Art: An Interdisciplinary Exchange has brought together an interdisciplinary team of scholars and visual artists to examine this complex relationship, with a particular focus on stem cell research.

An in-depth analysis of the impact of popular culture and art on public perceptions of biotechnology, and their respective influence on public policy has been undertaken. Participating scholars have examined how different areas of biotechnology (e.g. stem cell research, genetics and regenerative medicine) are reflected in popular culture, and assessed how the nature of these representations map onto public discourse and perceptions regarding that technology. These elements have also been considered in view of the broader policy environment. Alongside this research, artists have produced a series of original artworks that challenge the academic community and the broader public to consider the ways in which life science technologies are shaping contemporary society. The translational activities associated with this project – which to date include public exhibitions, writings for the media, and publications – have been considerable. Their broad dissemination across the academic, cultural and general public communities, serve to ensure that the complex ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) raised by biotechnology are examined by a broad spectrum of society.

For any questions regarding the above project please contact Robyn Hyde-Lay.