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The datafication of reproduction: time‐lapse embryo imaging and the commercialisation of IVF - new article by Lucy van de Wiel in The Sociology of Health and Illness

last modified Oct 18, 2019 04:34 PM

A new article by Lucy van de Wiel, The datafication of reproduction: time‐lapse embryo imaging and the commercialisation of IVF, is now out in the Digital Health special issue of the Sociology of Health and Illness.

'The 21st century has witnessed the emergence of in silico reproduction alongside the familiar in vitro reproduction (e.g. IVF), as increasingly large and automatically‐generated data sets have come to play an instrumental role in assisted reproduction. The article addresses this datafication of reproduction by analysing time‐lapse embryo imaging, a key data‐driven technology for embryo selection in IVF cycles. It discusses the new forms of knowledge and value creation enabled by data‐driven embryo selection and positions this technology as a harbinger of a wider datafication of (reproductive) health. By analysing the new ways of seeing embryos with ‘in silico vision,’ the ‘data generativity’ of developing embryos and the patenting of embryo selection algorithms, I argue that this datafied method of embryo selection may not just result in more or less ‘IVF success,’ but also affects the conceptualisation and commercialisation of the assisted reproductive process. In doing so, I highlight how the datafication of reproduction both reflects and reinforces a consolidating trend in the fertility sector—characterised by mergers resulting in larger fertility chains, online platforms organising fertility care and expanded portfolios of companies aiming to cover each step of the IVF cycle.'

Read the article here:

The Reproductive Sociology Research Group supports research and teaching on the social and cultural implications of new reproductive technologies. ReproSoc is based within the Department of Sociology and is part of an expanding concentration of Reproductive Studies at Cambridge, is led by Professor Sarah Franklin and has funding from the Wellcome Trust, British Academy, ESRC, ERC, and Office of the Vice Chancellor, as well as several other funding bodies.


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LIFE IN GLASS is a series of cultural experiments that explore the relation between reproductive technologies and the social worlds we live in. Through art, film and creative dialogue, we consider how reproductive technologies come to play an ever larger role in the process of imagining when, how, if, and what we reproduce in our lifetimes.

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