CULTURES OF BIOTECH Stephanie M. Tharp and Bruce M. Tharp

Cultures of Biotech: First Person Eater aims to educate audiences and prompt reflection upon biotechnology’s influence on human food systems. While this could be accomplished through essay, report, infographic, or even song or poem, its creators have instead leveraged the particular potentials of web-based adventure games. As new media artists, Kramer, Denfeld, and Conley draw upon approaches and methods from speculative design, design fiction, design futures, critical design, as well as others. These relatively new and evolving fields fit beneath the broad umbrella of discursive design and are unified by their deliberate use of artefacts as “tools for thinking” about substantive socio-cultural discourses. Cultures of Biotech is not (just) a game. A distinguishing attribute of their discursive medium is audience engagement—light-hearted role-playing within a future-leaning scenario that raises the eminently relatable question, “What’s for dinner?” Art leans upon design; user experience is kept front-and-center as biotechnological information and possibilities are conveyed. Despite the incredible impact on individual, societal, and all forms of planetary life, it’s easy to lose a general audience amid scientific detail. Cultures of Biotech, however, strategically leads “players” into a strangely familiar scenario where they can navigate layers of information communicated through an impressive range of artifacts. Information and imagination entangle; the audience encounters speculations in the form of a cooking show; food porn imagery; commercial product and package design; probative post cards; food timelines; and graphical analysis of meat production. Also presented are excerpts of actual patents, permits, periodicals, and academic papers; satellite weather imagery; and videos of food production and chemical processes. Rather than presenting more stand-alone artwork that depends upon supplementary exposition to fulfill educational and discursive goals, Cultures of Biotech successfully uses and infuses information, offering many, varied, and dynamic paths that lead to crucial consideration of the value and values of biotechnology.