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‘Biohybrid Bodies’

a three year research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and hosted at UCL (October 2021-24). The project aims to better understand how biohybrid systems may come to affect our bodies, lives, and societies. It will create a sociological research framework grounded in three interlinking ethnographies.

Image courtesy of Kate Devlin

What are

Biohybrid Systems?

They are one strand of Living Machines – the other two being biomimetics and synthetic biology. Biohybrid systems “couple biological entities with synthetic ones in a rich and close interaction” (Prescott, 2021 – Keynote at Living Machines Conference). These couplings scale from the nano (i.e. cells) to the large (i.e. organisms).

en-Caspule-ating Landscapes (part of Burd & Barker’s series Living Capsules, 2022). Copyright Ram Shergill

Three ethnographies


In Art bodies express. Bodies have long been a focal point when responding to, creatively interacting with, or resisting the concept of biohybrid systems and Living Machines. There are a range of contemporary artists that explore and provoke through their practice. How do such works resonate with audiences? Can collaborative ethnographic practices with artists stretch the sociological imagination?


In Sport bodies perform. Athletes’ bodies are always being fine-tuned. The encroachment of technologies (and pharmaceuticals) into sporting arenas has always pushed the boundaries of what sport is, and what is deemed possible or indeed natural. This can bring attention to certain bodies and practices in socially and politically charged ways. Emerging biohybrid systems are entering these space.


In Industry bodies produce. Workers are being inserted into the mechanisms and machines of production in new ways. Investors and developers are seeking to harness the productive potentials of new and intimate body-technology configurations. Industrial exoskeletons, for example, are being trailed in manufacturing and construction sectors.

Birthday Card drawn by Chris Barker (Dad)

Short posts

Scrolling Updates

Postcard ripped by participant. Collected as part of ‘Postcards to a Digital Future’ project with Harry Dyer & Esther Priyadharshini.