Emergents In Technoculture

Pleasures and anxieties over beginnings and endings abound in contemporary dog worlds. When technocultures are awash in millennial discourses, why shouldn't dogs get in an apocalyptic bark at first and last things? Canine tales demand a hearing; they concern the dramatis personae in the ecological theater and the evolutionary play of rescripted naturecultures in technonatural, biosocial modernity.1 I want to know how the emergence of an ethics of cross-species flourishing, compassion, and responsible action is at stake in technosavvy dog cultures engaged with genetic diversity, on the one hand, and cloning, on the other.

In the past, I wrote about cyborgs, a kind of companion-species congeries of organisms and information machines emergent from the Cold War. Also on my mind have been genetically engineered laboratory organisms such as OncoMouse™, those companion species linking commercial, academic, medical, political, and legal domains.

Emergent over the time of "species being" (in the philosopher's idiom) for both participants, dogs and humans as companion species suggest distinct histories and lives compared with cyborgs and engineered mice.

The term companion species refers to the old co-constitutive link between dogs and people, where dogs have been actors and not just recipients of action. Companion species also points to the sorts of being made possible at interfaces among different human communities of practice for whom "love of the breed" or "love of dogs" is a practical and ethical imperative in an always specific, historical context, one that involves science, technology, and medicine at every turn. Further, companion species designates webbed bio-social-technical apparatuses of humans, animals, artifacts, and institutions in which particular ways of being emerge and are sustained. Or not.

Trafficking in category making and unmaking, the play between kin and kind is essential to the figure of companion species. What is the cost of kinship, of category making and unmaking, and for whom? The content of any obligation is dependent on the thick and dynamic particularities of relationships-in-progress, that is, of kin and kind. The common matrix for these diverse claims on us is an ethics of flourishing. Chris Cuomo suggests that the core ecological feminist ethical starting point is a "commitment to the flourishing or well-being, of individuals, species, and communities."2 Flourishing, not merely the relief of suffering, is the core value, one I would like to extend to the emergent entities, human and animal, in technocultural dog worlds. Compassionate action is, of course, crucial to an ethics of flourishing.

Living in a companion-species world, where kin and kind are emergent and unsettled and also have unequally distributed life-and-death consequences, is living in a force field subject to "torque." Bowker and Star develop the idea of torque to describe the lives of those who are subject to twisted skeins of conflicting categories and systems of measure or standardization. Where biographies and categories twine in conflicting trajectories, there is torque.3 The fabric of technocultural dog worlds is torqued along several axes.

In the United States, dogs became "companion animals," both in contrast and in addition to"pets" and"working and sporting dogs," around the late 1970s in the context of social scientific investigations into the relations of animals such as dogs to human health and well-being.4 Vet schools, such as the one at the University of Pennsylvania, and assistance-dog programs, such as the Delta Society, were key arenas of action. There are many more threads to the story of the transformation from pets to companion animals, but I want only to make three points. First, dogs live in several twisted, braided categories at once; their biographies and their classifications are in a relation of torque. Second, changes in terminology can signal important mutations in the character of relationships—com-mercially, epistemologically, emotionally, and politically. Third, the term companion animals has more than an accidental relationship with other technocultural categories that achieved potency around 1980, such as biodiversity, genome, quality-of-life management, outcomes research, and all-the-world a database. "New" names mark changes in power, symbolically and materially remaking kin and kind.

A peculiar attitude to history characterizes those who live in the timescape of the technopresent. They (we?) tend to describe everything as new, as revolutionary, as future oriented, as a solution to problems of the past. The arrogance and ignorance of this attitude hardly need comment. So much is made to appear "new" in technoculture, linked to "revolutions" such as those in genetics and informatics. Getting through the day in technoculture is impossible without witnessing some old stability wobble and some new category make its claim on us. Dog worlds are hardly immune to this curious form of experience. To give a homely example, where having one's own human teeth cleaned used to qualify one as an upstanding biosocial citizen, hard-hearted are the dog people who have not felt the disapproval of their vets for failing to have their pooches' ivories tended. Similarly, where once being tested for human genetic disease seemed all one could handle, today failure to have testing done and to raise money for research into the most prevalent canine genetic diseases weighs on the conscience. Sharing the risk of gum disease and of genetic biosociality is part of the companion-species bond.

However, if revolutions here are mostly hype, discontinuities and mutated ways of being are not. Categories abound in technocultural worlds that did not exist before; these categories are the sedimentations of processual relationships that matter. Emergents require attention to process, relationship, context, history, possibility, and conditions for flour-ishing.5 Emergents are about the apparatuses of emergence, themselves braided of heterogeneous actors and action in torqued relationship. Companion animals, themselves emergent entities, require an inquiry into "what is to be done," that is, into what some call ethics or, in the domains I live in, bioethics. I want to explore this matter in relation to practices and discourses of canine genomic diversity and pet dog cloning.

First, I venture a word on bioethics, perhaps one of the most boring discourses to cross one's path in technoculture. Why is bioethics boring? Because too often it acts as a regulatory discourse after all the really interesting, generative action is over. Bioethics seems usually to be about not doing something, about some need to prohibit, limit, police, hold the line against looming technoviolations, to clean up after the action or prevent the action in the first place. Meanwhile, reshaping worlds is accomplished elsewhere. In this unfair cartoon, bioethics is firmly on the side of society, while all the lively, promising monsters are on the side of science and technology. If science studies scholars have learned anything in the last decades, it is that the categorical dualism between society and science, culture and nature, is a setup to block a grasp of what is going on in technoculture, including what is to be done in order that companion species flourish. If bioethics is to be part of science studies, it will have to get real. Bioethics is going to have to become a besmirched ontological laborer in the political economies of Biocapital, volume i.

Bioethics has inserted its speculum into the worlds of reproduction of just about all kin and kinds, sexual and asexual, in vivo and in vitro. Consider the difficulties that independent radio producer Rusten Hog-ness experienced as he developed a five-minute National Public Radio piece on human cloning for The DNA Files II, aired in the fall of 2001. Hogness's interview subjects—developmental biologists, nuclear transfer specialists, and other biologists involved in mammalian-cloning efforts— all argued that the crucial ethical questions in the human case lie in the materialities of the biology of cloning. There, the poorly understood processes of nuclear reprogramming and organismic pattern formation in epigenesis are crucial to the possibility of offspring who could be healthy throughout the life span, assuming they could get through the rigors of fetal development. Human cloning in current conditions of knowledge and practice would cause deep suffering to large numbers of sure-to-be-damaged offspring and to potential parents, medical staff, researchers, teachers, and others. Spontaneous and induced abortions for defective fetuses would be only the beginning of the suffering, in present and, at least near, future conditions of knowledge and practice.

Partly because of the widespread cultural belief, too often fostered by scientists themselves, that genes-as-code determine everything in biology, just as a program is determined by its code, the complexities of development are given short shrift in public discussions of cloning. Hogness and his biologist subjects turned to a metaphor of a musical score and performance, instead of the encyclopedia or the code, to gain a better grip on the layered materialities of genetics and development. In doing so, they directed attention to the collaborative, complex, processual, and performative relationships that make up biological reality. Getting inside that reality could direct ethical attention to the probable lived experience of cloned and cloning subjects. The ethical and the technical here are hand-in-glove or, perhaps better, nucleus-in-cytoplasm.

All of the scientists Hogness interviewed argued that human cloning should be unacceptable for a long time, because the offspring so likely would be hurt, as would the universe of people among whom those offspring would come. The conditions for flourishing are, put mildly, not met. This sort of consideration ought to unsettle the "misplaced con-creteness" of conventional discussions of human cloning. Too frequently, bioethical discussion asks whether it is proper to copy an individual, to scramble the generations, to play God, et cetera, as if these were matters for "society," while matters such as our ability to understand the complexity of genomics and epigenetics are relegated to the category of the "scientific and technical." While the bioethicists wax eloquent about supposedly compromised human individual uniqueness or excessive control of natural processes, the scene of ontological reshaping mutates once again under their feet, leaving ethical inquiry to play catch-up with odd abstractions and bio-think-tank scenarios.

Hogness had trouble convincing editors and producers up the line in The DNA Files that the crucial ethical issues now in human cloning are the biological matters. In a very short program in which even the rudiments of the biological techniques and developmental and genetic processes could barely be sketched, he was repeatedly asked to interview "a bioethi-cist." Society was on one side; science, on the other. But the biologists wanted to savor a mutated metaphor that let them stress what is really at stake in processes such as nuclear reprogramming in cloning, because that is where many of the conditions for flourishing lie. The ethics is in the whole ontological apparatus, in the thick complexity, in the nature-cultures of being in technoculture that join cells and people in a dance of becoming.

One of the scientists whom Hogness interviewed was Ian Wilmut, who led the effort to clone Dolly the sheep at the Roslin Institute. Referring obliquely to the misplaced concreteness of much bioethical hand wringing, he said, "It does strike me as the supreme irony which escapes some people that one of the reasons they're suggesting for copying people is to bring back a dead child. And one of the most likely outcomes of their cloning exercise is another dead child."6 Whether or not developmentally damaged sheep should be given similar consideration is a separate, but not empty, question, partly addressed by turning to those banes of living mutton, namely dogs, themselves subjects of an infamous pet-cloning experiment, the Missyplicity Project, which took off in 1998 with a $2.3 million private grant to researchers at Texas A&M University, the largest grant by far ever to be given in the area of canine physiology. The beloved mutt Missy herself died in 2002, the year the project moved from university-corporate collaboration to an entirely corporate ecology in order to develop the "high-throughput technology that only industrial partnerships can offer."7 Despite success in cloning two very pricey cats (in the range of fifty thousand dollars) for the pet market, the whole effort crashed in 2006 when Genetic Savings and Clone, Inc., went out of business and sold its frozen cells and gametes to an agricultural animal biotech firm, ViaGen, which had no plans to develop commercially cloned dogs.

The kennel has whelped fewer bioethicists than the nursery, but dog worlds also stand in acute need of a different ethical inquiry, one that is at the heart of the action that births emergent species, emergent kinds. As any feminist knows who has survived the biopolitical wars waged about structures and relationships below the diaphragm in human female bodies, "reproduction" is a potent matter. The symbolic load on reproduction in Western philosophy, medicine, and culture at large has required tomes from the most talented anthropological theorists among us.8 Even partly relocating this power from (properly impregnated and in situ) wombs (of the same species as the being-to-be) to laboratories, clinics, embryos in freezers, stem cell collections, surrogate wombs of anomalous kinds, and genome databases has undergirded industries of academic pronouncements, commercial boosterism, and bioethical angst. Where reproduction is at stake, kin and kind are torqued; biographies and systems of classification, warped. "Cloning Mutts, Saving Tigers" twists inside these symbolic and material forces. Both cloning and genetic diversity discourses are in the warp field of reproduction enterprised up.

Getting inside the apparatus of the production/reproduction of dogs in technoculture starts with the rich communities of breeders and health activists in purebred dog worlds. I will not here address purebred puppy mill producers, backyard breeders, or many other worlds of dog practice, which a wider analysis would require. Instead, I want to begin with a small community of dog breeders who taught me more about respect than about critique, so that I can anchor my anger with the pet-cloning extravaganza with which I end this chapter. Since the beginning of modern "purebred" dog breeds linked to kennel clubs in the last third of the nineteenth century, controversy about the health of dogs and ethical breeding practices has raged. As Foucault taught us for the birth of the clinic, the birth of the kennel had all the constitutive discourses in place from the first appearance of the formation.9

Two points need to be highlighted at the outset: (i) Responsible dog breeding is a cottage industry, made up largely of amateur communities and individuals who are not scientific or medical professionals and who breed modest numbers of dogs at considerable cost to themselves over many years and with impressive dedication and passion. I am excluding from my category of responsible dog breeders many of the larger kennels breeding to win in conformation competitions, partly because I have no firsthand ethnographic research on which to draw. Even more, I withhold attention here because what I think I know from both oral dog culture and published scholarly work makes me predictably critical, and I have nothing new to add to the well-worn arguments. I want to start somewhere that gives me an ethical, emotional, and analytical compass; it is a methodological principle for me. My small breeder worlds are not utopian communities, far from it; but the people I have met in my fieldwork, who are trying to do what they call ethical dog breeding, have earned my respect. (2) "Lay" people who breed dogs are often solidly knowledgeable about science, technology, and veterinary medicine, often self-educated, and often effective actors in technoculture for the flourishing of dogs and their humans.

The efforts of Linda Weisser and Catherine de la Cruz, U.S. West Coast breeders of Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs as well as health activists, to reshape the habits of Pyr breeders in dealing with canine hip dysplasia are a good example of this technosavvy and its biological and ethical demands.10 Weisser insists that the moral center of dog breeding is the breed, that is, the dogs themselves, as both a specialized kind and as irreducible individuals, to whom all the participants in Pyr worlds have an obligation. The obligation is to work so that the dogs and their people flourish over as long a time as possible. Hers is an "other-centered" ethics of a resolutely antiromantic sort that despises both anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism as a framework for practicing "love of the breed."

Both respected elders in the breed, Weisser and de la Cruz have encyclopedic knowledge of Pyr history and pedigrees over many decades; they are immersed in a cross-species kinship network of epic proportions. Listening to them talk about Pyr history requires learning idioms of dog form and function, layered national histories, functional and dysfunctional institutions, and human heroes and villains. They have entered thousands of individual Pyr pedigrees, some going back more than twenty generations, into computerized pedigree programs, which they carefully researched for their robustness for their purposes. A tremendous amount of what they know is personal and community knowledge—face-to-face, human-to-dog, and dog-to-dog—in the showing, ordinary living, and working ranch worlds where Great Pyrenees do their jobs. When they place puppies they have bred or dogs they have rescued from shelters into homes or livestock guardian jobs, they take the people and the dogs into their permanent cross-species kinship web. Membership in that web entails concrete demands, all of which are part of "love of the breed."

One of those demands is to breed only those animals who can improve the breed, that is, those who can contribute to the flourishing of Great Pyrenees. Even remembering that "improvement" is one of the most important modernizing and imperializing discourses, I cannot be dismissive of these commitments. What counts as improving the breed in dogland is controversial, to say the least. But since the founding in 1966 of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals as a closed registry and voluntary diagnostic service addressing the problem of canine hip dysplasia, standards of good breeding practice require at least X-raying potential mates for the soundness of their hips. However, this practice, even coupled with conscientious breeders' mating only dogs whose hips are rated good or excellent by OFA, could not seriously reduce the incidence of this complex genetic and developmental condition for two reasons. First, the registry was voluntary and closed; that is, breeders could not get the record of problems in someone else's dogs, and breeders with a questionable dog did not (and do not) have to get an X-ray to be able to register that dog's offspring with the American Kennel Club or other registry. Second and just as bad, if only potential mates were X-rayed and archived, the rest of the relatives (littermates, aunts and uncles, etc.) went unrecorded. People like Weisser and de la Cruz argued that open registries with complete pedigrees and fully disclosed health records for as many relatives as possible, all accessible to the community of practice, are needed. That is what biological, technical, and ethical ""love of the breed" requires.11

How could a community be led to a better practice, especially when something like full disclosure of genetic problems could lead to terrible criticism and even ostracism by those with too much to hide or just those who don't know any better? First, an open registry in the United States for canine genetic diseases came on the scene in 1990.12 The Institute for Genetic Disease Control in Animals (GDC), founded at the University of California at Davis vet school, was modeled after the Swedish Kennel Club's open registry. The GDC tracked several orthopedic and soft tissue diseases. Listing suspected carriers and affected animals and maintaining breed-specific registries and research databases as well as all-breed registries, the GDC issued the KinReport™ to individuals with a valid reason for inquiring. However, by 2000 the GDC faced a problem that threatened to end the service: too few dog people used its registry, and the institute was in financial trouble. In 2001, in coalition with progressive breeders and breed groups, the GDC launched a major effort to develop a grassroots advocacy program to support the institute's work. It needed five thousand breeders and owners to use the service and to work to promote the open registry.

Weisser and de la Cruz were among the most active Great Pyrenees breeders working to persuade their peers to use the GDC's registry instead of a closed registry such as OFA's. Biology and ethics were lived in concert in this dogland biosociality. However, what an open registry implies made for an uphill battle. In August 2001, de la Cruz received "quarterly reports from both OFA and GDC. Discouraging. There were 45 Pyrs listed as cleared by OFA and only three from GDC. . . . I would think any breeder would be proud to be able to point to a product of her breeding and say, 'That dog is producing sounder dogs than the breed average.' Instead we continue to see ads for the numbers of champions produced, the number of shows won. . . . I would love to hear from other breeders. Why don't you use the GDC?"13 One of many extended discussions on Pyr-L followed, along with behind-the-scenes work, in which de la Cruz, Weisser, and a few others educated, exhorted, and otherwise tried to make a difference for their breed. The GDC was not a technical fix; it was a biologically and technologically sophisticated whole-dog approach that required difficult changes in human practice for dog well-being.

In summer 2002, the GDC registry merged with the genetic health databases of OFA, preserving breeder access to the GDC's open data, but at a cost. All of the health data of the GDC were open; in the OFA system it was optional for a breeder or owner to allow others access to data on a dog. Negative information stays in short supply in an optional system under current incentives in dogland. Advantages for dogs probably prevailed in the merger. The OFA databases were much larger and had stable financing and wide use. Breeder education continued on the advantages of an open registry for searching whole families. Further, the merger was coordinated with the pooled databases from many breeds of the Canine Health Information Center, the new program jointly sponsored by OFA and the AKC's Canine Health Foundation.

Weisser and de la Cruz's struggle for the open registry exemplifies the technosavvy of "lay" dog people as they live within genetic biosociality. These women and those like them read widely, are knowledgeable about international dog cultures, take online genetics courses from a major vet school, follow medical and veterinary literatures, support wolf reintroduction projects and keep track of Pyrs who might protect livestock on adjoining ranches, engage broadly in conservation politics, and otherwise live well-examined lives in technoculture. Their expertise and action are planted in the soil of generations of particular dogs, whom they know in intimate detail, as kin and kind. What do such people do when they meet emergent demands, not only to deal with genetic disease, but also to breed for canine genetic diversity in the context of global biodiversity science and politics?

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