26 results for “Biocustomization”

Next Generation: Biophilic design with Daniel Elkayam

Freya Hutchings
October 29th 2019

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Daniel Elkayam, a fresh-faced Industrial Design graduate, based in Jerusalem, Israel. For his graduation project MAYMA, Elkayam worked with algae in ways that implore us to "imagine a world in which we harness nature in our favor without harming it," as the …

Custom-grown bones, and other wild advances in regenerative medicine

Vanessa Bates Ramirez
November 8th 2018

The human body has always been an incredible machine, from the grand feats of strength and athleticism it can accomplish down to the fine details of each vein, nerve, and cell. But the way we think about the body has changed over time, as has our level of understanding of it.…

The return of Rayfish Footwear?

NextNature.net
February 23rd 2018

Rayfish Footwear was a fictional company that offered personalized sneakers crafted from genetically modified stingray leather. This online science fiction story allowed customers to grow and design their own sneaker from a genetically modified fish, to question our (often all too consumptive) relationship with animals. Now, the company fiction is back: Catch Rayfish as part of FAKE at the Science Gallery in Dublin.…

The New Male Birth Control

Ruben Baart
February 7th 2017
A new contraceptive has appeared on the horizon, bringing the prospect of an alternative form of male birth control one step closer.

Grow Your Clothing with Microorganisms

Jeroen Paijmans
May 21st 2013
Wine and bacteria combine to make seamless clothing.

Grow Your Own – Call for Projects

Van Mensvoort
May 20th 2013
Science Gallery is calling synthetic biologists, bio-artists, bio-designers, amateur biotechnologists and bio-hackers to submit proposals for projects for their upcoming flagship exhibition GROW YOUR OWN.

Lets Grow a Glowing Plant

Van Mensvoort
April 25th 2013
Some four years ago we wrote about a plan to create bioluminescent trees that would replace streetlights. This dream is getting closer.

3D-Printed Skin Cells as an Aesthetic Statement

Insoo Hwang
March 6th 2013
An exploration of one way we might use 3D printed stem cells for body modification.

Disgusting, these Stingray Sneakers

Van Mensvoort
January 18th 2013
Dutch NRC features a wonderful article today on our online film project The Rise & Fall of Rayfish Footwear.

Strawberry Noir

Van Mensvoort
January 2nd 2013
Should plants be genetically controlled to perform specific functions for us?
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This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Daniel Elkayam, a fresh-faced Industrial Design graduate, based in Jerusalem, Israel. For his graduation project MAYMA, Elkayam worked with algae in ways that implore us to "imagine a world in which we harness nature in our favor without harming it," as the designer puts it.

Delving into the notion of biophilia — the belief that humans have an inherent tendency to make connections and form relationships with the natural world — Elkayam wonders about how humans relate to the natural world, and how the use of living materials may affect these (often consumerist) relations.

Welcome to the Next Generation: Get to know Daniel Elkayam.

What is MAYMA?

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

With the help of Dr. Filipe Natalio from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Elkayam developed a genetically modified outer shell for the algae which allows for the exchange of gases needed to sustain photosynthesis. The result is a living material that is autonomous yet confined, both natural and unnatural.

Elkayam sees MAYMA as a speculative venture into how we can make new connections with nonhuman life. His work explores how we can look afresh and reconnect with overlooked resources when they are presented in new forms.

The development of his project, and the deeper scientific exploration it involved, allowed the young desiger to see algae in a completely new light — as an untapped resource with dynamic possibilities. MAYMA brings together scientific exploration, human desire and the needs of algae in thought-provoking ways.

"How may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? "

Making the unfamiliar familiar

MAYMA evokes familiar archetypes such as the aquarium, house pants and traditional weaving techniques. Elkayam introduces algae in familiar ways to find a middle ground from which people can connect with it as both a potential resource, and as a living being for which humans have a responsibility. This feeling of responsibility is something Elkayam sees as crucial for living with nature in the future.

The designer seeks to ask, "how will the relationship between human and nature change if humans have to take care of the materials that purify the air around us? Would it be the same as taking care of a pet?" and "how may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? Would this new duty of 'care' make us consume less?"

Questions like these encourage us to think more deeply about our current use of natural materials. For instance, how deeply can we connect with a non-living wooden table? What duty of care do we have for it, beyond preserving its aesthetic appearance? What will happen if the natural materials that surround us are not inanimate, silent witnesses to our everyday lives, but alive, responsive organisms that require our care?

Rethinking biophilia

When we think about connecting with nature in a biophilic sense, Elkayam challenges us to think through the contradictions that surround our relationship with nature.

We may see MAYMA as another example of human mastery over nature, and think to ourselves, what’s different here? This is where Elkayam’s work challenges us to dissect our notions of what is natural.

Elkayam aims to create a productive tension between living and static, domestic and wild, touched and untouched. Projects like MAYMA can encourage us to let go of the romantic ideal of unspoilt nature, and see how scientific exploration can re-enchant us with natural materials in unexpected ways.

"Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers?"

Algae as co-designers

Elkayam’s project can be seen as tentative investigation into where the boundary lies between nature’s autonomy and humanity's desire for connections with it. It opens up discussion about what kinds of relationships we can form with living organisms when we let go of the idea of nature as pure, static, balanced and harmonic.

If biophilia is about making connections with the natural world, then we must learn to connect with new, not-so-natural nature that surrounds us.

In this case, can connections be made stronger when we can experience natural materials in ways that incorporate the needs and desires of both the human and nonhuman?

Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers, or perhaps, our next natural companions? 

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

MAYMA is one part of Elkayam's two part graduation series SEAmpathy.

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The human body has always been an incredible machine, from the grand feats of strength and athleticism it can accomplish down to the fine details of each vein, nerve, and cell. But the way we think about the body has changed over time, as has our level of understanding of it.

In Nina Tandon’s view, there have been two different phases of knowledge here. “For so much of human history, medicine was about letting the body come to rest, because there was an assumed proportionality attributed to the body,” she said.

Then, around the turn of the last century, we started developing interchangeable parts (whether from donors, or made of plastic or metal), and thinking of our bodies a bit more like machines. “We’re each made out of 206 bones held together by 360 joints,” Tandon said. “But many of us are more than that. By the time we go through this lifetime, 70 percent of us will be living with parts of our body that we weren’t born with.”

If that percentage seems high—it did to me—consider all the things that count as ‘parts’ of our bodies that are artificial: Dental implants. Pacemakers. IUDs. Joint replacements.

Now, though, we’re moving into a third phase of bodily knowledge. “We are an ecosystem of cellular beings, trillions of cells,” Tandon said. “We finally realized that man is a modular system, and cells are the pixels in this world.”

Tandon is co-founder and CEO of EpiBone, a company working on custom-growing bones using patients’ own stem cells. In a talk at Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine in San Diego this week, Tandon shared some of her company’s work and her insights into regenerative medicine, a field with tremendous promise for improving human well-being.

NIna Tandon Exponential Medicine Summit 2018
Nina Tandon at Exponential Medicine

What sets the third phase of knowledge apart from the second phase is that we’re learning how to fix and rebuild our own bodies using, well, our own bodies. Some examples include CAR-T therapies, which fight cancer using a patient’s own cells; regenerative medicine, which uses stem cells to repair body parts or make new ones; and microbiome analyses, which use our gut bacteria to fashion personalized dietary treatments.

Tandon’s expertise, though, is in personalized bones (not a term you ever thought you’d hear, is it?). “Bone is the most transplanted human tissue after blood,” she said. “And we’re replacing over a million joints every year in this country alone, just because of a couple millimeters of damaged cartilage. Welcome to the hundred-billion-dollar medical device industry.”

Epibone is working on doing it better. Here are some details of their method.

First, patients undergo a CT scan to determine the size and shape of the bone they need. Stem cells are extracted from the adipose (fatty) tissue in the abdomen. A scaffold model of the bone is created, as is a custom bioreactor to grow the bone in, while the extracted stem cells are prodded to differentiate into osteoblasts (bone cells).

When they’re ready, the stem cells are infused into the bone scaffold, and a personalized bone graft grows in the bioreactor in just three weeks. When the new bone is implanted into the patient’s body, the surrounding tissue seamlessly integrates with it; the custom size and shape ensure it will fit, there’s no risk of rejection since it contains the patient’s own cells, and since it’s made of living tissue, it’s likely to require far less revision than other types of implants.

Epibone is hoping to start human clinical trials next year, and it’s in good company; Tandon mentioned several concurrent projects in regenerative medicine that show we’ve truly entered the “biofabrication age,” as she put it.

Humacyte is working on bioengineered acellular vessels, and is currently in phase three clinical trials. Emulate Bio miniaturizes organoids on tissue chips. CollPlant has engineered tobacco plants to produce recombinant human collagen. Ecovative uses mushrooms to engineer sustainable advanced materials. BioMASON created a concrete that self-heals its cracks using water-activated bacteria.

“Cellular therapies can also involve using bugs as drugs,” Tandon said. “Imagine a probiotic yogurt being a kind of diagnostic device in the future using these little micro machines called bacteria.” To that end, Sangeeta Bhatia’s lab at MIT has engineered bacteria to glow green in the presence of colon cancer cells.

The list goes on—companies are building tools so wild that many still sound like science fiction.

As they continue to advance, Tandon noted, we must always consider the ethics behind these technologies and how we’re using them, and the conversations need to go beyond hot-button issues like designer babies or body modification.

“Are the modalities of government grant funding, angel funding, and VC really incentivizing us to develop the technologies that we want to see?” she asked. Access to biotech tools and treatments is an ethical consideration as well; scale and cost control must be foremost in biotech developers’ minds, so as not to end up with solutions for only the wealthy and privileged.

Regenerative medicine will certainly pose challenges, but its possibilities are vast and exciting.

In closing, Tandon asked the audience to envision a future where all the extra parts our bodies need “…are made not out of metal, not out of ceramic, not out of parts carved from other peoples’ bodies—but made out of ourselves.”

Image Credit: ChooChin / Shutterstock.com
This article originally appeared on Singularity Hub, a publication of Singularity University.

[post_title] => Custom-grown bones, and other wild advances in regenerative medicine [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => custom-grown-bones [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-10 16:27:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-10 15:27:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=91571 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 80585 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2018-02-23 11:16:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-23 10:16:26 [post_content] => Rayfish Footwear was a fictional company that offered personalized sneakers crafted from genetically modified stingray leather. This online science fiction story allowed customers to grow and design their own sneaker from a genetically modified fish, to question our (often all too consumptive) relationship with animals. Now, the company fiction is back: Catch Rayfish as part of FAKE at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

A phoney faux-pas expo?

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Science Gallery Dublin, known for being one of the most creative, innovative and artistic venues in Ireland: A place where science, art, technology and design collide, unleashing their combined creative potential.

What to expect at FAKE? You will be challenged to look at the theme of ‘fake’ from both positive and negative perspectives. From biomimicry to forged documents, and from fake meat to scandals and fake emotions. Expect yourself to question when is "authenticity considered essential, copying cool, and what is the boundary between a phoney faux-pas and a really fantastic FAKE," thus the curator writes.

This makes us wonder, how do we perceive what’s fake from what’s real? In the case of Rayfish Footwear, one of our first projects here at NNN, the truth about it being fake took a little while to come out.

An online science fiction story...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Visitors of the Rayfish website could grow their own sneaker with the online design tool: www.rayfish.com[/caption]

As you may remember, the launch of Rayfish Footwear back in 2012 raised a considerable debate on new biotechnologies, and questioned our – often all too consumptive – relationship with animals. With the creation of this fictional startup, we aimed to make that discussion tangible in a concrete product, a customized stingray leather sneaker, which consumers could either love or hate.

The promise was simple: Grow your own stingray with a pattern that you design. After a good life in the fishfarm, your fish is turned into a biocustomized sneaker.

While almost ten thousand people had designed their own fish sneaker on the Rayfish website, showing their desire for a biocustomized sneaker; almost the same amount of people had protested against the company, resulting in an intense discussion on the consumptive use of animals in our society.

[caption id="attachment_80660" align="alignnone" width="634"] A selection of customer-made sneakers.[/caption]

The Rise and Fall of Rayfish Footwear

During those days, the startup received lots of attention from prominent media, such as Wired, Huffington Post, among others, a fact that definitely contributed to further catalyze the debate. Rayfish seemed bound for success at the beginning, however, after animal rights activists broke into the company and released all the fishes in the ocean, Rayfish started struggling to find new investors. These series of events eventually led to more people questioning how legitimate this story was.

Not long after that, the fictional startup declared its bankruptcy and the true objective of the company was revealed in a ‘making of video’ titled "The Rise and Fall of Rayfish Footwear". This short documentary gave an overview of the entire project, its impact and the motivation of the makers to create this fictional story. Watch it here: [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGV4wxHRDKo[/youtube]FAKE runs from March 1st until June 3rd at Science Gallery in Dublin._________________________Your project on this website? Join the network!  [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => The return of Rayfish Footwear? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rayfish-footwear [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 11:28:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 10:28:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=80585 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 71203 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2017-02-07 10:23:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-07 09:23:27 [post_content] => The demand for male contraceptive methods is growing. At the moment, male birth control options are limited to the use of condoms, withdrawal or a vasectomy. A new contraceptive has appeared on the horizon, bringing the prospect of an alternative form of male birth control one step closer, with reportedly thousands of men on the waiting list.First things first, the latest tests have proved successful in male rhesus macaques. That’s right, monkeys. A company called Parsemus Foundation has been effectively studying male conception in baboon-based clinical studies for over a year, with 100% positive results.Their product called Vasalgel is designed to be a less invasive form of vasectomy and is injected into the sperm-carrying tube, acting as a long-lasting barrier. According to a press release: “It’s envisioned to be the first long-acting, non-hormonal, potentially reversible male contraceptive option in the market”. Meaning that if a man wishes to restore flow of sperm, the polymer is simply flushed out with another injection.So, back to the monkeys. Sixteen individual primates received injections of the gel and allowed one week of recovery. They were then placed back to outdoor groups with three to nine breeding females and were monitored for at least one breeding season. Turned out that zero contraceptions occurred and complications were minimal.For humans, this might also be an appealing alternative. Allegedly, surveys indicate that the majority of men would be interested in using a new contraceptive, and about 20% of couples already rely on existing male methods for reproductive control. While the product has not been tested on humans yet, the developers say they are planning to start a human trial as soon as funding is secured, based on the promising primate results.Source: EurekAlert! [post_title] => The New Male Birth Control [post_excerpt] => A new contraceptive has appeared on the horizon, bringing the prospect of an alternative form of male birth control one step closer. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => new-male-birth-control [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-10 17:54:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-10 16:54:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=71203/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 33036 [post_author] => 804 [post_date] => 2013-05-21 11:00:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-05-21 09:00:48 [post_content] => Clothing can be made out of more than just woven fabrics or synthetic fibers. Lady Gaga proved this with her infamous raw beef dress. But the meat dress is not the only piece of organic garment out there.Artist Donna Franklin and scientist Gary Cass have designed Micro’be, a fashion line consisting of clothing made from microorganisms. Where conventional clothing is woven in parts and stitched together, Micro’be consists of one seamless piece. The clothes are made from wine, and with the addition of the bacteria Acetobacter, the wine is fermented into vinegar. The by-product of this fermentation is cellulose, which is in turn used to grow the garment. The color of the fabric is determined by which wine is used. Red wine gives a red fabric, while white wine (and even beer) gives a translucent material. [post_title] => Grow Your Clothing with Microorganisms [post_excerpt] => Wine and bacteria combine to make seamless clothing. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => grow-your-clothing-with-microorganisms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-05 16:31:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-05 15:31:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=33036 [menu_order] => 1425 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 34054 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2013-05-20 18:34:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-05-20 16:34:05 [post_content] => Science Gallery is calling synthetic biologists, bio-artists, bio-designers, amateur biotechnologists and bio-hackers to submit projects to their upcoming flagship exhibition GROW YOUR OWN.“[This is] the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer…. This is a philosophical advance as much as a technical advance,” J. Craig Venter, announcing his ‘synthetic cell’ in 2010.GROW YOUR OWN… is a curated, open call exhibition tackling provocative questions raised by synthetic biology, and is supported by a Society Award from the Wellcome Trust. Curated by Professor Paul Freemont (Imperial College), Professor Anthony Dunne (Royal College of Art), Cathal Garvey, Daisy Ginsberg, and Professor Michael John Gorman (Science Gallery), GROW YOUR OWN… offers audiences a participative experience to explore the possibilities and potential implications of synthetic biology, through an exhibition, events and workshops.The open call will close at 12 midnight on May 26th 2013. For more information please see grow your own. [post_title] => Grow Your Own - Call for Projects [post_excerpt] => Science Gallery is calling synthetic biologists, bio-artists, bio-designers, amateur biotechnologists and bio-hackers to submit proposals for projects for their upcoming flagship exhibition GROW YOUR OWN. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => grow-your-own-call-for-projects [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-05 16:32:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-05 15:32:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=34054 [menu_order] => 1426 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 32964 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2013-04-25 23:17:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-04-25 21:17:30 [post_content] => Four years ago we wrote about a vision to create bioluminescent trees that would replace streetlights. This dream is getting just a little bit closer, now that a team of Stanford trained synthetic biologists led by Antony Evans launched a Kickstarter campaign to grow glowing plants.Using Genome Compiler software, the team is ready to input bio-luminescence genes into a mustard plant and have it be naturally glowing. Natural lighting with no electricity. Hypernature ahoy! [post_title] => Lets Grow a Glowing Plant [post_excerpt] => Some four years ago we wrote about a plan to create bioluminescent trees that would replace streetlights. This dream is getting closer. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lets-grow-a-glowing-plant [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-05 16:33:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-05 15:33:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=32964 [menu_order] => 1463 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 31531 [post_author] => 766 [post_date] => 2013-03-06 11:00:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-03-06 10:00:57 [post_content] => Here is a next natural form of body modification, a 3D printed tattoo. Maria, a 23 year old girl from the Netherlands, printed her skin with a design made from stem cells. For her, two diagonal lines mean rebellion and one horizontal line means peace. For Maria, these three ambivalent lines represent the state of utopia.During the London International Tattoo Convention, I interviewed Dr. De Jong who performed the operation. He was a tattoo artist until his 30s and has been trying to find a new form of self expression. He confidently said "Tattoo is a very ancient form of fashion and we need to use a new means to express ourselves. I am sure this 3D printed tattoo will soon be fashionable in Amsterdam and Tokyo and will spread across the world".This story is actually a fiction; the photo is from Ted Partin's book Eyes Look Through You. But perhaps it is not entirely a fiction, but a fictional reality. Think about Stelarc's Ear on Arm, or 3D printing technology branching out to bone, organs and skin. People already do astonishing things with their bodies. Why not 3D-printed modifications?[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7iHzg-zhuE&feature=youtu.be[/youtube] [post_title] => 3D-Printed Skin Cells as an Aesthetic Statement [post_excerpt] => An exploration of one way we might use 3D printed stem cells for body modification. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => 3d-printed-skin-cells-as-an-aesthetic-statement [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-05 16:36:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-05 15:36:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=31531 [menu_order] => 1521 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 30399 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2013-01-18 20:10:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-01-18 19:10:53 [post_content] => Dutch NRC Newspaper features a wonderful article today on our debate provoking online storytelling project The Rise & Fall of Rayfish Footwear. Buy that newspaper! [post_title] => Disgusting, these Stingray Sneakers [post_excerpt] => Dutch NRC features a wonderful article today on our online film project The Rise & Fall of Rayfish Footwear. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => disgusting-these-stingray-sneakers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-01-19 01:20:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-01-19 00:20:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=30399 [menu_order] => 1563 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 30215 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2013-01-02 18:15:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-01-02 17:15:05 [post_content] => Hypernature ahoy! Behold the Strawberry Noir, a 2050 strawberry breed with high levels of anthocyanin and Vitamin C, and black lace doilies for the fashion market.The speculative hyperfruit has been envisioned as part of Carole Collet's research on how we might program plants to grow into ready-to-pick luxury textile products in the future. Should plants be genetically controlled to perform specific functions for us? And if we move further into this alley, what will be the risks, opportunities and design methods?[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/52572656[/vimeo] [post_title] => Strawberry Noir [post_excerpt] => Should plants be genetically controlled to perform specific functions for us? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => strawberry-noir [to_ping] => [pinged] => http://vimeo.com/52572656 [post_modified] => 2016-01-12 11:11:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-12 10:11:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=30215 [menu_order] => 1578 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121984 [post_author] => 2194 [post_date] => 2019-10-29 14:10:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-29 13:10:07 [post_content] =>

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Daniel Elkayam, a fresh-faced Industrial Design graduate, based in Jerusalem, Israel. For his graduation project MAYMA, Elkayam worked with algae in ways that implore us to "imagine a world in which we harness nature in our favor without harming it," as the designer puts it.

Delving into the notion of biophilia — the belief that humans have an inherent tendency to make connections and form relationships with the natural world — Elkayam wonders about how humans relate to the natural world, and how the use of living materials may affect these (often consumerist) relations.

Welcome to the Next Generation: Get to know Daniel Elkayam.

What is MAYMA?

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

With the help of Dr. Filipe Natalio from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Elkayam developed a genetically modified outer shell for the algae which allows for the exchange of gases needed to sustain photosynthesis. The result is a living material that is autonomous yet confined, both natural and unnatural.

Elkayam sees MAYMA as a speculative venture into how we can make new connections with nonhuman life. His work explores how we can look afresh and reconnect with overlooked resources when they are presented in new forms.

The development of his project, and the deeper scientific exploration it involved, allowed the young desiger to see algae in a completely new light — as an untapped resource with dynamic possibilities. MAYMA brings together scientific exploration, human desire and the needs of algae in thought-provoking ways.

"How may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? "

Making the unfamiliar familiar

MAYMA evokes familiar archetypes such as the aquarium, house pants and traditional weaving techniques. Elkayam introduces algae in familiar ways to find a middle ground from which people can connect with it as both a potential resource, and as a living being for which humans have a responsibility. This feeling of responsibility is something Elkayam sees as crucial for living with nature in the future.

The designer seeks to ask, "how will the relationship between human and nature change if humans have to take care of the materials that purify the air around us? Would it be the same as taking care of a pet?" and "how may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? Would this new duty of 'care' make us consume less?"

Questions like these encourage us to think more deeply about our current use of natural materials. For instance, how deeply can we connect with a non-living wooden table? What duty of care do we have for it, beyond preserving its aesthetic appearance? What will happen if the natural materials that surround us are not inanimate, silent witnesses to our everyday lives, but alive, responsive organisms that require our care?

Rethinking biophilia

When we think about connecting with nature in a biophilic sense, Elkayam challenges us to think through the contradictions that surround our relationship with nature.

We may see MAYMA as another example of human mastery over nature, and think to ourselves, what’s different here? This is where Elkayam’s work challenges us to dissect our notions of what is natural.

Elkayam aims to create a productive tension between living and static, domestic and wild, touched and untouched. Projects like MAYMA can encourage us to let go of the romantic ideal of unspoilt nature, and see how scientific exploration can re-enchant us with natural materials in unexpected ways.

"Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers?"

Algae as co-designers

Elkayam’s project can be seen as tentative investigation into where the boundary lies between nature’s autonomy and humanity's desire for connections with it. It opens up discussion about what kinds of relationships we can form with living organisms when we let go of the idea of nature as pure, static, balanced and harmonic.

If biophilia is about making connections with the natural world, then we must learn to connect with new, not-so-natural nature that surrounds us.

In this case, can connections be made stronger when we can experience natural materials in ways that incorporate the needs and desires of both the human and nonhuman?

Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers, or perhaps, our next natural companions? 

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

MAYMA is one part of Elkayam's two part graduation series SEAmpathy.

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