Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Kitchen Hacking in Hackerspace 2011

In Food Hacking on February 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

On February 13 we had our first kitchen hack meeting in Hackerspace and tested a 2D EGG PRINTER…


Defined by hacked kitchen gadgets various dieting “tribes” are already a reality: paleodiet believers can be identified with DIY sous vide appliances, locavores with foraging practices and interfaces monitoring food authenticity, molecular gastronomes with liquid nitrogen DIY protocols, nutrigenomics enthusiasts with interfaces for crowdsourcing biodata, and functional food minimalist with voluntary starvation because they refuse to feed the selfish DNA.

Denisa, Meng and Zhiquan were brainstorming over some blenders, food processors, toasters and one broken sous vide PID controller and came up with several ideas they will test in the next month:

1. Paleo Radar attached to Sous Vide PID controller that would monitor livestock in the vicinity (or human flesh for potential cannibals) and warn the urban hunters when they can catch something really fresh. We were also thinking of potential future DIY satellite missile system attached to this that can kill the cattle instantly it “smells” something close to our sous vide cooker. For now we may try to connect the PID with Kinetic, so it becomes like a carnivorous kitchen device with a special sense!

2. Buddhist Blenders and Emotional Food Processors that have an opinion on what they kill, either sending Twitter prayers online or refusing to blend onion or something smelly. We want to attach cameras and some Arduino hacks with diodes to make  this kitchen utensil more fun.

3. What we tested and it didn’t quite work out was an idea of a special kitchen home entertainment system: 2D EGG PRINTER connected to data-projector , basically we tried to make shapes in egg-white and then in yolk by warming it up with the dataprojector, like cooking with your data-projector. We had an idea of eating your pictures, tasting visualizations projected on an egg-white surface… Like a sous vide data-projector technique for eggs but also a way how to involve more of your gadgets in your food. Everything is a kitchen gadget!  We wanted to “print” in the egg white the IBM logo but then we tried our Hackerspace star. We used a DLP but it was not strong enough so next time we will experiment with something old fashioned that produces more heat or with laser video projector.  We would also try to create some food 3D printers.


Food Hacking 2011 Singapore

In Food Hacking on February 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

Inspired by the Sous Vide revolution in Singapore, a Secret Cooks Club was set up by several food enthusiasts with variety of interest starting with molecular gastronomy, social networking over food, food 2.0 services etc. The group is active on Facebook page that links to their website and they organize underground restaurants’ and food events around Singapore that experiment with various design ideas like dinner hopping, networking with strangers over food.  SCC supports community garden guerrilla  activities in Singapore, food foraging and various creative ideas around food. For April 2011 we plan the first dinner – dinner prepared for people with 23andme profiles that will be personalized based on their genome and it will serve as a type of nutrigenomics exercise/performance/experiment with  future food cultures.

Members have funny titles:

Florian – Chief Secret Chef
Denisa –  Secret Food Operations
Augustus – Division of Food Voyeurs,
Dan – Shadow – Minister for Grits and Biscuits
Chew Lin – Arbiter of chocolate & all things pleasurable to the palate


DIYbio flower revolution in Asia

In DIYbio on February 13, 2011 at 11:45 am

The most successful of these DIYbio activities in the rest of Asia is related to the famous art centre in Yogyakarta called “House of Natural Fiber” (HONF). In 2009 and 2010 they organized a series of workshops led by artists (Marc Dusseiller, Shiho Fukuhara, Georg Tremmel)  in cooperation with the Microbiology Lab of the Agriculture faculty in the Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in which they hacked webcams and even Sony’s PS3 Eye into digital microscope, used them as haemacytometers and bacteria counters and even explored various other alternative functions for micro-organism detection. They also worked on simple scientific protocols as a response to urgent social needs and protest tools against government policies. HONF’s recent project “Intelligent Bacteria – Saccharomyces cerevisiae” was nominated for the prestigious Transmediale 2011 award because of this original use of scientific protocols as forms of a peaceful protest. The collective created a simple kit for alcohol brewing and distilling of Indonesian fruit as a response to the newly imposed tax laws which tripled the price of wine and even beer and pushed the local population into lethal experiments with distilling and brewing their own alcohol.

Similar to the initiative in the Philippines (Biomodd and BedroomLab), the DIYbio in Yogyakarta has a strange obsession with flowers and plants. While in the Philippines the plants are used for building future sustainable server farms (Biomodd), in Indonesia fruit and plants are used basically as a political medium for resolving social issues and questioning the global biotech networks.  Following Japan, the flowers are even used for supporting the Creative Commons License in the first ever biopiracy protest flower revolution – the “Common Flowers: Flowers Commons” project. The project which started in Japan and Germany was only promoted in Indonesia but offers a very interesting case study of global biotech networks and the grassroot biopiracy response by developing nations around the world because of GM patents.

The Japanese and Indonesia biopirates basically reversed the “jailed” and genetically modified and copyrighted blue carnations and released them back to nature and to the land where these flowers originated and where they belong. Since these plants are officially considered not harmful, it is not illegal to release them into the environment, but the Japanese company that owns the patent decided to avoid public reactions against GM and outsourced their “production” to South America. The blue Moondust carnations were developed by the Japanese beer-brewing company, Suntory, as the first commercially available genetically engineered flowers, and although the company was granted permission to grow them in Japan, they simply outsourced the production to Columbia, from where they ship them as cut-flowers to the worldwide markets.

In the “Common Flowers” project the artist collective (BCL) reversed the plant growing process by technically cloning new plants from the purchased cut-flowers using Plant Tissue Culture methods. Using DIY biotech methods involving everyday kitchen utensils and materials purchasable from supermarkets and drugstores, they “freed” the GM carnations back into nature in undisclosed locations to support the idea of creative commons and even bio-sharing: “By freeing (‘jail-breaking’) the flower from its destiny as a cut-flower and establishing a feral and more ‘natural’ population of blue carnations, the flower will be given a chance to reconnect to the general gene-pool and to join again the evolution through natural selection. Common Flowers hopes to touch is the question of patents on plants and on lifeforms in general. In particular what form of legal protection for their plants was granted and does the act of simply growing plants constitutes a violation of Suntory’s copyright. Is this reverse Bio-piracy?” (Fukuhara &  Tremmel, 2010)

The more socially and critically involved hacking is typical for the rest of the Asia DIYbio scene (except Singapore) because of its close ties with the EU based initiatives. The best definition of this style of DIYbio hacking is given in one recent interview with the BCL collective that created the “Common Flowers”: “Hacking has to be effortlessly elegant. A small gesture with a big outcome. With Bio-hacking in particular we mean the attempt to regain the power about our shared biological destiny. We need to get involved, we need to understand, we need to learn. Not only we as artists, but we as a society.”  (Gfader, 2010) The strategy of “small gestures with a big outcome” uses a non technological jargon to explain the basic low-tech and high-impact strategy of the DIYbio movement which in the Asian context uses scientific protocols are used as a form of political protest and social empowerment and not only as a medium for technological progress and scientific advancement. HONF as a new media art laboratory running ever since 1999 in Yogyakarta implements such simple, community and open source based technologies to improve the daily lives of people there and agriculture is a very important part of this.   Also in the Philippines, the DIYbio activities that are just starting around the SABAW Media Art Kitchen and their “BedroomLab” workshops and meetings are targeting agricultural “hacks” in the form of urban farming, bio-fuels and solutions dealing with ecological issues. The interest in plants and digital technologies that we can follow in all local projects is becoming something of a distinctive sign of the Asian DIYbio scene.

Even the very successful Biomodd [LBA2] Philippines project that was started in 2009 as an art initiative by a Belgian artist Angelo Vermeulen works with the idea of bringing plants and computers together for socially and ecologically sustainable future. The Biomodd project started as an art idea that soon developed into serious, community driven research project into issues of symbiosis of biology and electronics as sustainability solution. Through a partnership with the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) and a whole range of Filipino cultural partners with more than 100 Filipino artists, scientists, engineers, gamers, craftsmen, volunteers and students, the project was able to attract a critical mass which turned it into an international success story supported by the famous TED foundations. Over the course of eight months an installation was created that literally fused a living ecosystem of plants with a modified computer network. The monumental sculpture contains system of recycled computers intertwined with an aquaponics system that serve as cooling devices for the computers use for various games etc. The synergy between technology and biology brings together computers, algae and plants but also various people that took part in this open source educational and art project which involved the public in a serious ecological debates about the sustainable future.

The DIYbio movement in Asia is socially oriented and driven and involves actors that are closely connected to local even indigenous cultures. We can clearly see this in the case of the “Intelligent Bacteria – Saccharomyces cerevisiae” project by the HONF collective. The project is offering a solution to a serious social problem related to the unsafe and unsterilized alcohol production that leads to dangerous methanol poisonings which are killing people in Indonesia on a monthly bases.  Due to the regulation from the Ministry of Financial Department that increased duty on alcohol in April 2010, local traditional alcohol drinks became popular again and started to appear in the markets in large quantities, often containing very dangerous methanol substances. Artists together with researchers at the Microbiology department of UGM in Yogyakarta conducted a research in introducing a proper and safe fermentation technology for the general public. The DIYbio in Indonesia basically democratized a science protocol that will make the home fermentation of alcohol safe. This protocol supports an old tradition of fermentation that is more part of the indigenous cultures in Indonesia rather than the official religion. Through a publically available kit and instructional video the artists and scientists involved in this project are trying to connect traditional knowledge of brewing with modern technologies that make the production of alcohol safe but also to open to discussions. The project has an artistic aspect in the form of an acoustic installation that responds to the high number of poisonings and deaths of alcohol consumption in Indonesia. What makes the project outstanding is how DIYbio and open source approach to science connected contemporary art strategies with local and traditional knowledge and culture. This offers a specific form of science communication based on appreciation on local and traditional knowledge and culture related to alcohol production and knows how to connect them with modern technologies and methods.

These examples of experimental form of research, investment and even artistic creativity show clearly how the “low-tech but high-impact” logic of the DIYbio movement operates in various contexts and how it can connect science, culture and society in ways that traditional STS policy discussions could not even imagine. The artistic and scientific solutions and protocols are affecting but also involving large groups of citizens and stakeholders in the process of the research, creation and production. Whether in USA, EU or Asia the DIYbio revolution involves open source laser cutters and other open hardware tools that can create cheap lab equipment, synthetic biology recipes and other protocols that spread like cooking recipes, self-organized clinical trials and other community related projects that are challenging not only in technological but also in social sense. The strategies and interests of these groups are starting to converge into one informal “pop biotech” network between ASIA, USA and EU that is very different from the official flows of knowledge and expertise in the biotech industry but which also reflects many of the common issues and problems with biotechnologies.

DIYbio in Singapore – preliminary notes

In DIYbio, Food Hacking on February 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

The first DIYbio event in Singapore which was organized in July 2010 also took place in the first and only Hackerspace in Asia. The Singaporean Hackerspace is based in the traditional Malay area of the city, Kampong Glam, which represents well the paradoxes involved in the local movement. Kampong Glam is known for its bohemian and very relaxed atmosphere even if its difficult to find a restaurant serving alcohol beverages because of the strict halal policy. It is however one of the most popular and authentic places with a unique ability to integrate and accommodate the most traditional and the most bohemian cultures. Western tourists, local expats and alcohol loving Singaporeans enjoy the authentic feeling of this place and simply develop a special strategy how to move around by having a dinner in one of the Turkish or Egyptian restaurants outside in the pleasant tropical night while enjoying the drinks later in the air-conditioned Blue Jazz café and club. The club is also used for the monthly Hackerspace events that introduce various interesting local businesses, research and creative projects, so called “blinkBL-NK” nights.

The paradoxes represented by Kampong Glam mixture of religion and hedonism, tradition and innovation, are mirrored well in the local Hackerspace and DIYbio scene. The Singaporean DIYbio that started as a gathering of artists, philosophers and scientists “doing strange things in their bathrooms and kitchens” rather quickly transformed into “Biotech Start-up Nights” in the next three months. While in the original meeting people acquired some knowledge on how to hack rice cookers and create sous-vide cooking devices, how to shoot fly porn with hacked webcams as microscopes and support one local evolutionary biologist in his research, later meetings became networking sessions for the local (missing) biotech startup scene.  Business and culture, government and community projects  in Singapore do not exclude each other but they do not really support each other either. The whole dynamics surrounding the local Hackerspace and DIYbio movement repeats the paradoxes that are so well represented by the Kampong Glam area.

For example, the most serious activity of the Singaporean DIYbio became a rather geeky campaign against the government health program promoting balanced diet but not for reasons which we would expect in such anti-government campaigns which usually protect the rights of the individuals to choose their own diet.  The local Hackerspace responded to the government “command” asking citizens to eat more veggies and grains with even more extreme technocratic and “scientific” advocacy for the so called “paleo diet” based on meat consumption and even molecular gastronomy techniques of “sous-vide cooking”. The main local proponent of the paleo diet and a sous-vide cooking guru, Meng Weng Wong, who is also one of the leading figures of the local Hackerspace, simply started a campaign against the “carbohydrates” conspiracy and other reliques of “agriculture”. He subscribes to the belief in the evolutionary connection between our genes and meat consumption which supposedly developed in the original hunter-gatherer society and which agriculture messed up with grains. For this reason, he is fighting the government camping by organizing large sous-vide meat dinners and parties and using his blog to promote this diet by giving detailed descriptions of his cooking experiments and techniques. The DIYbio in Singapore repeats and mirrors the paradoxes involved in Kampong Glam’s unique bland of traditional and bohemia culture in this unique combination of paleolithic ideology and modern sous-vide technology, of very old food genes and very modern cooking practices, and maybe defines certain Singaporean uniqueness.

The Singaporean DIYbio interest in molecular gastronomy and issues of food and health are also a response to a fashion trend and nutritional discussions which are possible only in a very wealthy society.  The most notable DIYbio initiative in the rest of Asia, especially in Indonesia and in the Philippines, have very different agenda but they also follow closely the EU model. The DIYbio experiments and events in EU are closely connected to the local squat and art centers and to the BioArt projects rather than to the Hackerspace ethos. These global DIYbio networks that are emerging in Asia for this reason offer two,  almost opposing versions of how to involve the public, the citizens in science and technology development. While the US model of Hackerspaces and DIYbio labs is based on the ethos of entrepreneurship and independence from the strong state, which strangely is possible even in the technocratic Singaporean context, the EU model is based on publically funded art projects and the tradition of squat cultures. While in the US model of DIYbio, the citizens are basically shareholders in science and technology projects that have a potential to provide benefits to the early adopters, in the EU model, the citizens are more stakeholders that can have wide range of reasons and interests (often critical) in the biosciences and the biotechnologies. While the Singaporean DIYbio follows the US model in terms of its interests and models of work (Hackerspaces), the rest of Asia is more involved in the critical appropriation of biotech protocols that are closely connected to the strategies typical of the EU art centers and squats.


In DIYbio on February 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

Special panel at the Genomics Institute in association with the two day international workshop on

“Asian Biopoleis: Biotechnology & Biomedicine as Emergent Forms of Life and Practice”

6‐8 JANUARY 2011

organised by Asia Research Institute & National University of Singapore


Chairperson Ryan BISHOP

10:00 Sandra Soo‐Jin LEE
Center for Biomedical Ethics,
Stanford University
Race, Risk and Recreation in Personal Genomics

10:25 Takashi KIDO
Riken Genesis. Co., Ltd.
Genetics and Artificial Intelligence for
Personal Genome Services

11:15 Denisa KERA
Communications and New Media Programme,
National University of Singapore
From DIYGenomics to DIYBio: Emerging Citizen
Science Incubators and Projects in Southeast Asia

Communities of people monitoring, sharing and making sense of various “objective” and “scientific” data in their
everyday life are exploring new and unexpected global networks around lowtech biotechnologies and biomedicine. As similar communities evolve globally there have been shifts in scientific knowledge bases and increased permeability to the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Movements such as Consumer Genomics, Citizen Science and DIYbio have the potential to radically transform and redefine the conduct and practice to scientific work in Singapore and Asia. Key questions that will be addressed through this panel include:
What is the state of the art in citizen science projects, consumer genomics services and various DIYbio initiatives?
What challenges do these consumer and publicly oriented services pose to the official biotech industry?
How these services operate on the global level and what type of exchanges are we witnessing between continents
and cultures?
Does challenging research happen only in professional labs or we are starting to witness an emergence of new
models of more communitybased research that will involve the public in the whole process?
What perspectives do these movements offer to the developing world?