“A rich and fascinating ethnographic and historical account of the transformations wrought by integrating statistical and computational methods and materials into the biological sciences. . . . The histories of biology, computing, database technology, and bioinformatic imaging all play a role in this wonderfully transdisciplinary story.”
(Carla Nappi New Books in Science, Technology, and Society
“What is it like to do biology when the indispensable scientific instrument has become the computer, when biological objects are transformed into computer-compatible data, and when the manipulation of data replaces the manipulation of organisms and their parts? Life Out of Sequence is a vivid account of how the flow of massive amounts of data has fundamentally changed both the questions biologists ask and the answers they recognize. It is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the world that biologists have made for themselves and that they are making for the rest of us.”
(Steven Shapin, author of The Scientific Life)
“What happens to biology with computerization? Hallam Stevens’s compelling ethnographic and historical narrative shows how the nature of the biological experiment has changed with the increasing use of the tools of information technology in life science and biomedicine. Life Out of Sequence traces rearrangements in the relationship between the virtual and the material as scientists work increasingly on databases rather than cells or bodies. As the book takes on the mirrored questions of the work of life and the life of work in front of the computer in the lab, the reader is brought into the world of bioinformatics, and comes to understand that this is not just a subfield of scientific activity, but a space in which the nature of knowledge production in life science is undergoing fundamental and rapid change.”
(Hannah Landecker, University of California, Los Angeles)
About the Author
Hallam Stevens is assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where he teaches classes on the history of the life sciences and the history of information technology.