PASSIMer of the month (Hyo Yoon)

I teach intellectual property and related issues at the Kent Law School. As part of the PASSIM project, I will find out about scientists’ understanding and use of patents as a documentation and information source beyond the legal role of patents as property rights. Understanding the way in which a complex and coded legal writing such as a patent is read, used and employed beyond its intended function, I hope, will reveal how law represents and shapes other systems of knowledge, as well as itself being a distinctive one. The question of media and technique is central in this project, as is a reflection of the reading practices and interpretation of a specific genre.

Academically I have a multi-disciplinary training and background in law, politics, history of science and anthropological theory. This is an unintended result caused by the nature of the questions or problems that I have been interested in: I started out analysing the intersection of human genetics and human rights during my Master’s, then my doctoral dissertation explored the meaning of human person in human gene patents, which then led me to examine how scientific knowledge is represented and ordered in legal classifications, which was the subject my postdoc research. Looking back, one common thread throughout my work has been finding out about the concrete details of knowledge creation and wanderings, as well as abstraction and materiality.

Currently my home discipline is law, but throughout my academic training, I read and learned other disciplinary ‘canons’ and current debates in anthropology, philosophy, political and social theory, history of science, and science and technology studies. With hindsight I am grateful that I was expected to read whole books and/or difficult original primary texts during my school and university years. Realising as a teenager that it takes me a week to read and understand two pages of Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason helped me perhaps to work through an introduction into molecular biology textbook when I was doing a PhD. It definitely raised the frustration threshold! Pre-uni I was trained in music, which also involved substantial time and personal commitments, but also made me realise the benefits and drawbacks of an intense formation.

Different questions and issues demand different perspectives and approaches. The PASSIM project brings to the fore that a patent is/can function as public documentation. This in turn raises questions about the nature of publicness, documentation, information – and ultimately, proprietary boundaries. Patent is the ultimate boundary object in so many ways, and it is well approached for its full meaning and implication from multi- or trans-disciplinary perspectives. I am extremely fortunate and excited to be part of PASSIM both from the point of view of my research interests and its perfect fit, as well as having such a lovely group of colleagues to work with.

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