Bamford - Chapter 03
Drawing upon recent writings by historians of science, I argue in
this chapter that digital genealogies, a by-product of experimental
biomedical projects, can be usefully regarded as machines, as vehicles
for generating connections and histories and for changing existing
notions of kinship and belonging. I shall focus on the so-called
Book of Icelanders, an extensive computerized database on Icelandic
family histories that was made available on the Web in January 2003.
Earlier, the database was made accessible in an encrypted form to
the biomedical researchers of the company deCODE genetics. The
genealogical database, then, has a dual role as both a public resource
and an essential ingredient of biomedical research. As we will see,
it has an aura of science fiction, combining elements of the cumbersome
hypertext of late-medieval ancestral albums and the rhizo matic
kinship of artificial life (see Helmreich 2001) – and yet it is ethnographically
salient, a part of the everyday world of Icelanders.