The Gene is Out of the Bottle: The Communication of Genetic Complexity in Direct-to-consumer Genetics

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University of Southern California, 2008 - 342 pages
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This dissertation interrogates norms of state-of-the-art communication for direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic services. It finds that the introduction of DTC genetics disrupts settled norms of social practice. Analysis of texts designed to repair norms and situate genetic complexity in relation to existing medical and social practices discovers that the communicative conventions employed by the market, legislators, medical organizations, and public advocacy groups clash over how they vest agency in language. The clash between polysemous, contending institutional languages magnifies complexity and puts at risk the function of communication at the core of a rhetorical practice: the creation and maintenance of the communitas. Asking how emerging new biotechnological practices can be integrated into the social space, the dissertation extends inquiry into the recovery of human agency as critical to emerging new biotechnological practices and argues that norms for state-of-the-art communication for biotechnology must evolve from a sensibility toward language as rhetorical that assembles polysemous, contending institutional languages within a broad communicative context.

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