On the Contesting Conceptualisation of the Human Body: Between ‘Homo-Microbis’ and ‘Homo-Algorithmicus’

Dan M. Kotliar, Rafi Grosglik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Microbiome science has highlighted human and microbial interdependency, offering a radical epistemic shift from the individualistic view of the human body and self. Research has accordingly offered to see humans as ‘homo-microbis’ – complex biomolecular networks composed of humans and their associated microbes. While social scientists have begun to address microbiome science, the proliferation and commodification of the homo-microbial episteme have largely been overlooked. Based on an ethnographic account of a research project that offered microbiome-based personalised nutrition and the successful start-up that emerged from it, this article examines the emergence, proliferation, and commodification of the homo-microbial body. We show that this episteme necessarily depends on opaque machine learning algorithms; that the microbiome is paradoxically seen as a data-driven individuating marker; and that homo-microbis is, in fact, also a homo-algorithmicus – a being that can only access its non-human sub-parts by blindly following opaque algorithmic recommendations in an app.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-108
Number of pages28
JournalBody and Society
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023

Keywords

  • algorithms
  • artificial intelligence
  • microbiome
  • nutrition
  • personalisation
  • self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies

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