The changing relationships between digital technologies, DNA and evidence
The relationship between digital technologies, DNA and evidence is changing so rapidly and profoundly that in-depth and creative analyses of the links between them are urgently needed. Digital innovations within forensic DNA analysis affect the making of DNA evidence. For example, new computer programs create identikit pictures from DNA. At the same time, DNA and evidence-based reasoning also change digital technologies, for example when DNA is used as a storage medium for digital data. Digital DNA provides pioneering empirical insights and theorization on the reciprocal influence of digital technologies, DNA and evidence. The project defines an emerging field: the digitization of forensic biology and the influence of the biosciences on digital technologies. It provides systematic interdisciplinary studies on three sets of developments. 1. Changes in hardware. It investigates how smaller and more mobile hardware influences the production of DNA evidence, and how DNA is used as hardware in computing. 2. Changes in databases and analytic instruments. It studies how a growth in DNA databases and their algorithmic analysis influence the production of DNA evidence, and to what extent digital databases and algorithms are associated with evidence-based reasoning. 3. Changes in information per se. It discusses how the ability to alter DNA influences the production of forensic evidence, and how DNA influences the concept of digital data. Current debates tend to focus on ethical, legal and societal aspects of forensic innovation or on the roles that big data and algorithms play in society. Digital DNA focuses on more fundamental developments: how DNA evidence changes when it is integrated with digital technologies, and the re-orientation that digital data and technologies undergo when they are integrated with biology. A unique combination of methods from the social sciences, information studies and natural sciences is used in the project.