A visual audio experience. Created by Britt Wray and Produced by Nadja Oertelt.


We once heard a saying that goes like this:

"In a room full of synthetic biologists, ask each one to define synthetic biology, and you'll get as many completely different answers as there are people in the room."

Synthetic biology means many things to many people, though at its most basic, the field aims to engineer helpful, clever or “better” biological systems than what nature provides.

It has made huge promises about its benefits for society,
yet uncertainty remains about what its implications will be.

Aurator is a platform for public engagement about synthetic biology.

Aurator is a platform for listening and speaking back to the private thoughts and feelings of people who work in controversial fields. This edition of Aurator focuses on synthetic biology, and invites you to explore the audio diaries of a natural scientist, a social scientist, an artist, a biohacker, an entrepreneur, a watchdog, and a bioethicist who have worked extensively in the field of synthetic biology.

Aurator began as an experiment at The University of Copenhagen when Britt Wray solicited audio diaries from a diverse group of experts who work in synthetic biology from different disciplinary angles. Each diarist was sent an audio recorder in the mail as well as an open-ended question once a week for twelve weeks that asked them to reflect on their feelings towards synthetic biology. They captured their reflections as privately recorded audio diaries, which users like you can now listen and respond to. Their diaries planted the first seeds for a new approach to public engagement that evolves with input from experts and laypeople – and most importantly you - on Aurator.

Many synthetic biology research networks endeavour to create something akin to a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) stream that, among other things, tries to foster meaningful engagement with the public so that anyone, regardless of their background, can take part in debating the field. Aurator tips its hat to RRI, but puts an unique focus on artistic research and interactive media as a means for achieving its engagement goals. Besides fostering open-ended discussions about synthetic biology with diverse people across disciplinary divides, we hope Aurator can also serve you as:

  • A place to discover new research topics.
  • A place to seed discussion points for real-life outreach events.
  • A place for those considering a life in science to develop a nuanced understanding of what’s involved.
  • A place to build and test relationships of trust between experts and the audiences they feel responsible to.
  • A place for diverse members of the public to have their voices heard.
  • A place for engagement to last longer than a “one off” live event at a civic meeting or a panel discussion, for example.
  • A place for exchanges between experts and publics to be archived and iterated upon.

Created and directed by Britt Wray
Produced by Helios Design Labs
Presented by University of Copenhagen
University of Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre
Executive Producer: Nadja Oertelt
Creative Technologist: Mike Robbins
Database Design: Ewan Cass-Kavanagh
Visual Design: Alex Wittholz
Developers: Dan Sundy, Iain Campbell
Music composed by Shani Aviram

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Listen to the diaries of a natural scientist, a social scientist, an artist, a biohacker, an entrepreneur, a watchdog, and a bioethicist.

Respond to them or start new diaries to share your feelings about synthetic biology.

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