Gender, Science, and Self-Shaping: Biohacking and Techno-Identities
(Semester 2, 2022 – 23)

Course Description

A frail and sickly Steve Rogers consumed the “Super-soldier serum” and became Captain America with enhanced strength, while Jennifer Walters received a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner, and gained her superpowers as She-Hulk. While these specific fantastical examples (and results) exist only in the Marvel Universe, the desire for biohacking, or the act of literally “hacking” one’s body, is pervasive. Whether one takes vitamin supplements or implants a chip into their body, biohacking as a concept is extremely vague and wide-ranging.

In this course, students will explore theoretical approaches and ethical concerns on the practices of biohacking and gender. How does biohacking influence individual gendered identities and stereotypes? What are the ethical responsibilities that now face us with an explosion of “self-shaping” technologies? How is “science” related to all of these issues?

Students will examine biohacking through two major approaches. First, they will study body hacking, which can be explained as literally “hacking” one’s body in a do-it-yourself (DIY) manner to change both the appearance and the functionality of one’s physiological condition. Practitioners based in HK and elsewhere will be invited for guest presentations to give students a more “hands-on” experience. Second, students will engage with biohacking through the “quantified self,” that date-identity which has been enhanced in recent years by the use of wearable personalised technology that allows for the measurement of biomarkers and physiological behaviours.

Students will practice this theory of the “quantified self” as part of their assessment for the course and journal their experiences in conceptualising their everyday life via wearable technologies, thereby gaining first-hand understanding and generating new understandings of how biomarkers as part of a more general trend may change behavioural patterns, attitudes, and gendered identities.