Oct 282014


Project Description

Art + Biosensors + Audiences

This project aims to provide an assessment of wearable biosensors through:

• interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange

• artistic interpretation

• public engagement and deliberation.

Commissioning an art project that engages biosensors brings these approaches into play. The term biosensor has a wide discursive range including the sensing of bodily information from location and movement to chemical detection of blood sugar and heart rate. The term intersects with that of biometrics (measurements of the body), which could also include facial recognition, body temperature and perspiration levels. Biometrics have been cast as impersonal surveillance technologies with the potential to exploit in terms of public understanding (Technolife report), and as securities research in terms of innovation. They have also come under criticism for the way in which they objectify bodies and reduce understandings of the body to a limited set of biometric indexes (Magnet, 2011). Levels of belief in biometrics as a security ritual are high and the market in biometrics has become economically successful on this basis (Magnet, 2011). If biometrics measure bodily signals, biosensors sense them. This sensory connotation helps us to understand biosensing as a more intimate project. Although there is an intersection between the two terms, biosensors have a different trajectory. Biosensors are imagined not as impersonal and institutional but as personal and are part of the personal turn in biomedicine and other areas. Biosensors are imagined as a potentially personal communication system where signals about the body are relayed to the source. They may link individuals to databases and aggregate or big data, and a health care provider or remote clinician can also be part of the imagined circuit but they are not integral to it. Biosensors are part of a high tech imaginary that combines complex systems with personal data generation and self-monitoring. They have also been actualized as leisure devices (blurring the boundaries between leisure and health) care in some cases (e.g. FitBit).