Disturbing the Blueprint

Disturbing the Blueprint is an interactive artwork that comments on the use of metaphors within the history of genetics. Metaphors have been widely used within science often with the intention of bridging temporary gaps in knowledge or to aid explanation of complex ideas to non-scientific audiences. Metaphors that capture our imagination are often difficult to disturb even when they are no longer scientifically helpful or accurate.

Metaphor is used as a way of thinking about something new by examining the properties of something already known to us that is seemingly different though similar in some respects. Philosophers Lakoff and Johnson (Ref 1) regard metaphors as being “necessary and productive” and, in the case of science, may enable new ways of seeing that help to develop the thought processes and move the research forward. However, some researchers are concerned about the limitations of metaphors and how an attachment to a particular metaphor may then limit other ways of thinking. A strong example of the use, and power, of metaphor is in the field of genetics. Watson and Crick introduced the information metaphor into the discourse by announcing that DNA carries a program and genes produce their effects by providing the instructions for protein synthesis. These metaphors were generated at the same time as developments in information theory, computing and mass production and included language such as instructions, code, boot-up, machine and factory. In more recent years, this has moved onto new metaphors such as maps and blueprints.

The artwork explores this idea of disturbing the human blueprint metaphor through taking external input from the microphone and physical sensors such as a pressure sensor. The visuals are generated by a program written using Processing code and linked up with the electronics platform Arduino.

Random portraits are shown on the screen alongside the computer code that has been written to take input from the physical world in order to disturb those images. Viewers have been invited to contribute their own portraits to the collection allowing them to disturb their own image.


Disturbing the Blueprint is a piece that also references how the effect of outside environmental factors can be modified by our genetic make-up (often referred to as our genetic code) resulting in more complex gene-environment interactions.

Ref 1. Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson, Metaphors we live by. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980)

Processing is an open-source programming language and environment for people who want to create images, animations, and interactions.

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.