Rendering Life Molecular: Models, Modelers, and Excitable Matter
This chapter highlights a range of ways that molecular models are rendered in time-based media. It takes a close look at computer graphic animations of molecular movements and phenomena such as protein folding and unfolding. The chapter argues that the narrative forms and temporalities of these animations render molecules in ways that exceed the conventions and mechanistic logics to which practitioners are expected to conform. Animations invite viewers to consider the lively, wily, indeterminate nature of molecular life. This chapter takes up practitioners’ anxieties about anthropomorphisms and their attempts to police their ongoing participation in animating molecular life. It explores how their stories waver between the mechanistic and the animistic, and how this ambivalence engenders a “lively mechanism” that does not conform to the neo-Darwinian logics that ground contemporary molecular biology. In some contexts the animate molecules in ways that suggest affinities to a more Lamarckian model of evolution.