“To imagine a language is to imagine a form of life.” 1
The relationship between culture and language is a two-way street: language reflects the material and conceptual worlds we live in, but it also has the ability to shape perception and collective consciousness.2 Many environmental thinkers believe in the importance of language in confronting the Anthropocene: “Words wield tremendous influence over human thought and action.”3 Considering that synthetic biology and biodesign are relatively young fields, their futures and the way they are discussed are malleable and full of potential. My tentative capstone idea for Designing with Life is the creation of an encyclopedia or dictionary: a new, more conscious and ecological lexicon surrounding synthetic biology and biodesign. I hope this will create more nuanced understandings of biology and its capabilities, as well as more empathetic relationships with our planet and non-human cohabitants.
1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958): 6.
2. Matthew Schneider-Mayerson and Brent Ryan Bellamy, An Ecotopian Lexicon (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), 6.
3. Sean O’Neill, “Mythic and Poetic Dimensions of Speech in Northwestern California: From Cultural Vocabulary to Linguistic Relativity,” Anthropological Linguistics 48, no. 4 (2006): 309.