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02-17-94 10:15:36
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Blast 4: Bioinformatics Description

Matters pertaining to spatial orientation are often expressed through
cartographic interfaces -- maps -- that facilitate positioning within various
environments.  Such environments are comprised not only of physical components
(buildings, streets, landmarks) but also dynamic systems (financial flows,
product flows, population flows) and various codes (social, cultural,
linguistic).  Maps that show the flows of various dialects throughout
geographical regions, for example, not only situate the reader in a specific
dialect-ical physical location within an environment; they also situate the
reader within dynamic dialect-ical flows.  If a map is an admixture of
locations, systems and codes, however, the same is true of its reader-maker,
whose body and actions are a combination of subject positions, circulatory
flows, and genetic information.  The interaction between a person and a map,
then, produces a web -- of biological entity, social relation, and various
systems and codes -- that facilitates negotiation with diverse environments.
As such, the map mediates a traversal by which the reader-maker is
simultaneously a producer of the map as well as an embodied product of the map,
positioned by it while destabilized by its flows.

Coding systems, in regard to which maps provide embodied orientation, are
increasingly complexified via information technologies and economies.  Through
the circulatory dynamics of often interchangeable and increasingly digitized
biological, social, linguistic, and cultural codes, these technologies
reconfigure the contemporary landscape as they refigure us.  The resulting
network of relations, which has been characterized by Donna Haraway as
"informatics," is one in which biological systems, like other systems, function
as nodal entities with wider, dispersed nets of transactions.  Given this
situation, a primary question becomes, how might we orient ourselves and
negotiate with the various intersecting spaces that are generated by this nexus
of codes?  How might we articulate ourselves, our relations, and our positions
as living entities through these codes?  In short, how might we configure a
bioinformatic map?

According to Deleuze and Guattari, "The map is open and connectable in all of
its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant
modification.  It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting,
reworked by an individual, group, or social formation.  It can be drawn on a
wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a
meditation."  Bioinformatics constitutes such a map -- one that configures
itself as a shifting transactional interface and its participants as
constellations of biological and informational processes.  As such, this
project functions as a guide with which participants can situate themselves as
living and livable bioinformatic entities in the world.  This is useful in that
many cultural productions, notably those of science fiction, have often
constructed bioinformatic interfaces that have been fundamentally unlivable.
Although examples of relatively tranquil bioinformatic life sometimes prevail
-- as in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness -- the primary images of
such life are dismal.  The often dystopian tales ranging from Jean-Luc Godard's
Alphaville and Vernor Vinge's "True Names" to, more recently, Ridley Scott's
Bladerunner, William Gibson's Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash are
well-known examples.  Indeed, with technology-as-Big Brother looming in the
background of many such fables, we have usually come to know bioinformatic life
as inherently fatal and catastrophically doomed.

It is not necessary, however, to visit these science fictive worlds in order to
experience life as a bioinformatic entity; for such is our experience of
normal, everyday life.  The nets of transactions that we initiate, for example,
with each use of a credit card, each medical exam, each subscription to a
magazine, or each telephone call, connect us across various spaces and systems,
producing us as nodal entities within extensive, diffused informatic networks.
By investigating the negotiations that occur between biological organisms and
these currently existing networks, Blast 4: Bioinformatics positions itself,
its participants, and their social relations *within* the fluidity of their
exchanges, yielding a set of relations that is complicit, counteractive,
collusive, and contradictory.