Frame Reflection Lab: a Playful Method for Frame Reflection on Synthetic Biology

Marjoleine G. van der Meij*, Anouk A.L.M. Heltzel, Jacqueline E.W. Broerse, Frank Kupper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Synthetic biology is an emerging technology that asks for inclusive reflection on how people frame the field. To unravel how we can facilitate such reflection, this study evaluates the Frame Reflection Lab (FRL). Building upon playfulness design principles, the FRL comprises a workshop with video-narratives and co-creative group exercises. We studied how the FRL facilitated frame reflection by organizing workshops with various student groups. Analysis of 12 group conversations and 158 mini-exit surveys yielded patterns in first-order reflection (problem analysis and solution finding in reflection on the development of synthetic biology as a field) as well as patterns in second-order reflection (reflection on values and assumptions underlying the first-order reflection). Also patterns in participants’ (re)framing of synthetic biology could be induced; participants’ viewpoints converged to some extent, yet with openness to individual viewpoint differences. Although the FRL method fortified the reflection processes of participants, the narratives and the workshop’s flexible format could inhibit the reflection too. Therefore, we advise designers of future frame reflection methods to apply stronger conversational facilitation and narratives of slightly mysterious yet identifiable narrators, in case e.g. video-narratives are created and used to scaffold the reflection process. Nevertheless, we argue that the use of a playful frame reflection method like the FRL could function well as (1) a step to precede more application-specific deliberation or decision-making on synthetic biology and as (2) a method for the collection of contemporary citizen viewpoints plus rationales underlying these, for the further (societally) responsible development of the emerging field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-172
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Frame reflection
  • Playful tools
  • Reflection methods
  • Responsible research and innovation
  • Synthetic biology
  • Video-narratives


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