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  • SN-0025 Biofutures - Owning Body Parts and Information - An Interactive DVD ROM

This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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"Biofutures: Owning Body Parts and Information": An Interactive DVD ROM

Collection Date: 22 Dec 2008
Scholar #1 Info:

  • Name: Robert Mitchell
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Institution/Organization: Duke University
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: English, Center for Genome Sciences, and Cultural Studies of Biology

Scholar #2 Info:

  • Name: Helen Burgess
  • Email:
  • Title: Assistant Professor
  • Institution/Organization: University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: English and Electronic Literature

Scholar #3 Info:

  • Name: Phillip Thurtle
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Institution/Organization: University of Washington
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: Science and Technology Studies, Intellectual History, and Cultural Studies of Biology

Collector Info (can be the same as "Scholar" above):

  • Name: Phillip Thurtle
  • Email:
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Institution/Organization: University of Washington, History and Comparative History of Ideas

Notes on Methodology:

Biofutures: Owning Body Parts and Information is an interactive, scholarly DVD-rom from University of Pennsylvania Press. Biofutures deals with a key set of issues: the relationships between biology, law, and the cultures of creativity and ownership.

The six chapters of this DVD-ROM are designed to help viewers understand these perplexing aspects of contemporary biocommerce in the United States from several perspectives. We outline key technological developments that have made it possible for groups of researchers to create therapeutic products based on genetic engineering of living tissue. We also discuss changes in American law that have allowed corporations to patent living tissues, as well as genetic sequences and genes. Finally, we focus on social and economic changes in order to understand the ways in which many of the thorny problems of biocommerce (for example: should corporations be allowed to patent naturally occurring genes?) are the result of more general changes in conceptions of "property," "labor," and "information" that have occurred as a result of the rise of the information economy.

A screenshot of the main navigational menu



  1. Although the project had three main authors, participants also included, animators, interviewees, music composers, videographers, experts in coding in Director, designers, and scientists and policy experts to vet content. Also, although a University Press was utilized to distribute the project, the authors had to prepare distribution ready copy of the DVD to the press.
  2. The project is intended to supplement, summarize, and re-present current scholarship in the humanistic, legal, and cultural studies of recent biotechnology using rich media. Although argument driven, all incorporated hyperlinks and media were chosen to augment the textual argument of the project, the project uses rich media to demonstrate key points of discussion that can't be grasped through other means. For instance, a key component of the California Supreme Court ruling on the ability to patent human cell lines was the assumption that researchers put a significant amount of labor to transform cells for useful study (i.e., hange the cell lines so that they can grow indefinitely in a laboratory environment). Unfortunately, few individuals outside the field know exactly how these cell lines are constructed and can't make an informed judgment on how much labor it takes to transform cells. We include a video of researchers transforming cell lines so that users can decide if researchers have significantly labored to transform these cells.
  3. All those interested in recent developments in biotechnology or in the cultural studies of biology. The inclusion of rich media and bibliographic essays makes the DVD an especially useful teaching tool
  4. No. The project is designed to have a companion WWW site, The Biofutures Project, and is specifically designed to guide researchers to other useful content.
  5. It would be nice to have a workspace where one could utilize WYSIWYG construction to build scholarly documents that utilize rich media. These documents could then be routed to a number of publication venues, DVD, CD, WWW, even article.

Use of animation in the DVD:

Example of bookmarking system:



1. Was this story collected for a particular Bamboo working group?  If so, please include, as keywords, the appropriate group(s).

  • Stories

2. This project utilized all of the following aspects of scholarly activity.

3. Please list additional keywords here:

media, new media advocacy, permissions, cultural studies, biology, storyboards

4. Related Stories: Are there parts of the story that relate to other collected stories? Please provide title(s) and link to the story page. 


The project began in 2002 and wasn't completed until 2008. The first few years of the project were spent raising money, identifying key participants, and thinking about how best to present material. Through much discussion we decided to structure the DVD along six case studies divided into the three groups of "Law", "Biology", and "Culture". Each group had two case studies


  • The Cells of John Moore: Ownership and patenting of human tissue
  • PXE: The use of patents in patient advocacy


  • Spider Goats: How biology utilizes industrial and postindustrial spaces
  • Cryogenics: How researchers manipulate biological time through the use of biotechnology


  • Bioart: How artists comment upon or utilize biotechnological methods in recent art work
  • Transgenics and movies: Investigates the ways that innovation economies are portrayed in movies on transgenic creations (Jurassic Park and Resident Evil).

After the cases were decided we used Powerpoint to construct individuals screens as storyboards. This gave us the ability to place text with image on each screen (while allowing us to judge the right amount of text for each screen) while evaluating the overall flow of the argument for the case study. We then commissioned needed animations, video interviewed subjects, music, or identified best possible visual elements for each screen of text. We would then build these chapters in Director, embed media, and then add voiceover to many of the videos and animations. When the main story elements were in place we would get together, physically, and edit the chapters. Once all chapters were compiled, we evaluated how all the chapters fit together and wrote transitions, an Introduction, and bibliographic essays. This penultimate product was sent to an individual well-versed in programming for Director, he then rewrote sections so that it could smoothly play on all macs and pc's. This product was then sent to University of Pennsylvania Press where it was packaged and distributed.

Other Comments:

Other links to activities



Example Link


1 Comment

  1. Unknown User (rjaffe)

    Use of rich media formats raises a future need for format-migration, therefore implying an additional category: ws-preservation.  (See also SN-0010, SN-0011, SN-0020, SN-0022, SN-0023, SN-0024, et al.)  May also suggest and additional category, ws-publication.  (See also SN-0011, et al. ...)