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Sep 21, 2011 Commentary
From symptomatic to pre-symptomatic patient: the tide of personal genomics

by Marina Levina and Roswell Quinn

Personal Genomics Companies are an emerging form of biotechnology startup that bring rapidly advancing whole genome technologies to a variety of commercial venues. With a combination of direct-to-consumer marketing, social media, and Web 2.0 applications these companies seek to create novel uses, including entertainment, for what is described as predictive medicine – that is the use of genetic marketers to create health forecasts that would allow individual’s healthcare to be tailored to their individual genomic data. In this brief piece, the authors use a critical cultural approach to question how this combination of genomics research, marketing, and communications technologies may alter both patient experiences and research processes. In it we argue these companies radically expand the definition of a patient by claiming all consumers are simply pre-symptomatic patients. Moreover, by placing genomic data on both the marketplace and cyberspace, personal genomic companies seek to create new avenues of research that alter how we define (and access) research agendas and human subjects. Therefore, beyond commonly discussed issues of ethics and privacy rights, Personal Genomics has the potential to alter both healthcare priorities and distribution.

Volume 10 • Issue 03 • 2011

Mar 22, 2010 Article
Googling your genes: personal genomics and the discourse of citizen bioscience in the network age

by Marina Levina

In this essay, I argue that the rise of personal genomics is technologically, economically, and most importantly, discursively tied to the rise of network subjectivity, an imperative of which is an understanding of self as always already a subject in the network. I illustrate how personal genomics takes full advantage of social media technology and network subjectivity to advertise a new way of doing research that emphasizes collaboration between researchers and its members. Sharing one’s genetic information is considered to be an act of citizenship, precisely because it is good for the network. Here members are encouraged to think of themselves as dividuals, or nodes, in the network and their actions acquire value based on that imperative. Therefore, citizen bioscience is intricately tied, both in discourse and practices, to the growth of the network in the age of new media.

Volume 9 • Issue 01 • 2010 • Special Issue