In Dutch Design Week 2013, Ben offered visitors the chance to have their DNA decoded by a commercial lab. This puts the audience in the position of choice – will they choose to have greater knowledge about their ancestry and health risks, or opt to stay knowingly ignorant?
In September 2013, an online DNA testing website was granted a patent for a gene preferencing system. After parents have coded their own DNA, the program helps them control which of their own characteristics they would like their children to inherit. The traits they choose translate to data sequences, normally combined by chance, and in this system, potentially able to be controlled.
The First Gift Blanket (also on display in DDW) visualises a natural combination, showing real data from the chromosomes of a daughter. The red originates from the mother, the blue the father, the purple is shared DNA and the yellow points are anomalies. This DNA data is from the sister of Dr Manuel Corpas, who shared it online in order to experiment with open source DNA analysis. The blanket, which displays her real genes, is a precious heirloom – showing the complexity, uniqueness and sacred nature of genes.
Now, visitors to Dutch Design Week can win the chance to have their DNA tested. However, with this new knowledge comes power and responsibility – will you decode your data?