MA Interaction Design show- Cristina Munoz: “Botanic Gene”

It’s time to get into the details of another graduation project from the MA Interaction Design show: “Botanic Gene” by Cristina Munoz.

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What is your project about, in a nutshell?

I created a service where the DNA of a person or an animal is inserted into a plant. Here is how it works: you order a plant online, then you spit in the kit you receive and you send it back to the lab; the lab puts your DNA in a gun and send a cell culture of the plant you chose. As soon the package arrives to your house, you are able to shoot the DNA into the plant. Mainly, the service wants to engage people with science at home. The idea is to create different scenarios that reflect on how science is capable of influencing our everyday lives. there is a lot currently happening with life-hacking and the Do-It-Yourself movement, and that is totally fine, it needs to happen, but we need to question what we are bringing into our lives. Just by bringing something like this into the mundane, the idea is to imagine a future that is not dystopian, just a possibility of how things can be.

Does the process work like this in practice? Is it tested?

A traditional gene gun costs 50 000 euros; this one costs 50 euros, and it totally works, it’s accessible to the people. Current crowdfunding campaigns are another way of bringing science to the people and for the public to do things by themselves, but we don’t yet know the implications and what will come out of this. It gives us more power to take decisions on our own. The result is that people tell these stories and they humanise things, in this case plants, to fit our beliefs. This plant may only be a plant. Lots of people ask: will the plant have a physical change? It won’t, or maybe it will slightly change physically through various combinations, we don’t know that yet. But just the fact that we know the DNA is there, even if we don’t see it, allows people to build completely humanised stories about these plants.

How did you manage to build this kit? Did you have scientific support?

I have been in contact with a lot of people from the DIY communities; for example someone built a a DIY gun whose code and model are totally open, you can copy it and make one yourself; his work was exhibited in Denmark. In this case, this gene gun was designed by me, but he was the one who showed me how it works. And this all is open. You can do it, which doesn’t mean you will do it, but somebody can deliver it to your house at a very accessible cost.

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Would you like to turn this into a commercial project?

I wouldn’t want to be a part of selling this service, but I would like to be in a crowdfunding space like Kickstarter, not for commercialising it, more for the idea of thinking and engaging with these practices and just to see what reactions they provoke. I would like to know if people would buy it, if they comment, if they get angry…
My project is a way of putting you in a space where this might happen, or it is already happening, but we don’t usually think what are the consequences, or how relationships change in our domestic lives, for example. Sometimes we are not able to realise how bringing these things to domestic lives in general affects us and changes us. Nothing in it is scary, at all, but it is the new normal, and changes the way you perceive nature. And this a way of showing the new normal, by botanical growing.

What do you plan to do now that you’ve graduated?

I’m originally from Ecuador, and I came here on a studentship- so now I will have to go back to my home country for at least 30 months, and I will explore possibilities there.

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