What is “hacking”? A way to customize one’s surroundings by readily available means. At a recent workshop on biohacking organized by Labitat in collaboration with Medical Museion I tried a very fine hack – a web cam customized for communicating microbiology.
The hack is based on an ordinary cheap web cam. With a small screw driver most webcams can be relieved of their shell and their electronic innards laid bare. It takes a deep breath and a change of mind to look at little pile of electronics as something manipulable.
Web cameras contain a little lens placed on top of a chip that generates the image. By turning this lense around the web camera will – rather than reduce the image of the room in front of it – magnify what it “sees”. In the case of my web cam it involved sawing off a little plastic knob, but once the extra plastic was off the lens was (relatively!) easily screwed on the other way around and voilá – a web cam becomes a web microscope!
This device strikes me as the perfect image of what we try to do at Medical Museion by opening a biohacker space in the museum. It makes the micro-world – essential to modern biomedicine – available on the web. It mixes concrete manipulation with material objects – essential in museums – with communication. And it exemplifies an experimental approach to viewing and making public.
We will be hosting a bio hacking space at Medical Museion in the beginning of 2013 where guests can test the DIY web microscope, http://www.museion.ku.dk/whats-on/exhibitions/from-kitchen-sink-to-museum/.
See also DIY microscopy on http://hackteria.org/wiki/.php/DIY_microscopy and http://diybio.org/2009/12/13/webcam-microscope-hacks-at-bosslab/.