Team:Weimar-Heidelberg Arts/Project


Why a Supermarket – general aims

The project Super Cell is a fictional supermarket offering speculative products, which are all based on Synthetic Biology. The projects aims to improve public awareness about Synthetic Biology and at the same time, foster a debate on how we want to see it manifested in our everyday lives. Implications of Biotechnologies are usually discussed on a philosophical, ethical, legal or possibly religious level. All these areas share a pretty abstract perspective on the matter. By designing speculative products and presenting them in a familiar environment such as a webshop, we aim to create tangible manifestations which allow specialists and non-specialists to engage in a discussion about the desired and undesired implications of Synthetic Biology. If we -as a society- want to influence how this powerful science will affect our future lives, this kind of discussion is essential to have now.
As we want that discussion to start, Super Cell doesn't end with iGEM Competition 2010. Rather the Jamboree is the starting signal for an intensive presence in public with which we want to guarantee the sustainability of our project.

Future prospects and sustainability of the Project

To achieve this three things will be focussed:

1. The web shop Super Cell

The web shop Super Cell will be available all over the world. People can experience a world in which products that are enabled by synthetic biology belong to our every day life.
The shop includes products that come from the art context and tend to start a societal discourse, unconvertible today but with a clear biology background that proves that in (far out) future they might become reality. But the shop also highlights products that are based on previous iGEM projects, with already working mechanisms of the synthetic biology. Conceivable is to keep on working on the Super Cell web shop and to include over the years more and more possible products that come up with the iGEM competition.

2. Exhibitions

Enter the synthetic biology supermarket, smell it, touch it, feel it. Buy and change your life. In the exhibition the already existing and far-out in the future applications are put next to each other – on supermarket shelves, in walk-in environments and access points to virtual representations. The first exhibition will take place in Weimar, Germany in spring 2011. Starting from that the exhibition will travel to Heidelberg and should be shown afterwords in various places in Germany and all over the world. The first international exhibition is expected (but not 100% sure yet) to take place in Vienna, integrated in the “Bio:Fiction Science, Art and Film Festival” from May 13th-14th 2011 at the Museum of Natural History.

3. Presence in Media and the press review

As far as we can say now, media has a great interest in our project. The well known german radio station WDR is producing an feature about Super Cell.
As most german iGEM Teams the radio station „Deutschlandradio“ and the internet TV station „Biotech TV“ presented our project in their program. Also the regional media in Thuringia is very much interested in our Art&Science project – for example the local radio station F.R.E.I. produces a series of interviews, accompanying the project from the first ideas to the jamboree and the first exhibition.
Important to point that, as explained, the most important phase of the presence in public and communication with the society will start with and after the Jamboree – so that the presence in media is anticipated to advance.

Safety - or: what happens when an idea is born...

With our project Super Cell we aim to contribute to a societal discussion about synthetic biology. We don't want to be judgmental but bring synthetic biology out of the laboratories to be discussed in public. By connecting it with our everyday life, we hope to foster an open discourse about chances and dangers, and potential protective mechanisms. A informed general public is needed to react on the many ethical and cultural challenges coming with Synthetic Biology. Some of our products are quite controversial, nevertheless probably most of the products presented in Super Cell would find a brought sales quantity.
When an idea is born it starts to walk and becomes autonomous. Can we take that responsibility? What happens if a “real” business company gets inspired and translates one of the controversial ideas into a real product? Hopefully by then the now started discussion yields fruits and consumers have the competencies to deal with “synbio-products” to include them into a self-determined life.