Scientific Images

  •  

    Tour of "Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia" with Faculty Curator Dr. Drew Armstrong

    In Spring and Summer of 2014, Dr. Drew Armstrong worked with a group of graduate and undergraduate students in History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh to organize an exhibition that explored relationships between images and knowledge. As part of the Debating Visual Knowledge weekend, Dr. Armstrong gave a tour.

    More on the exhibition can be found here.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
  •  

    "Visualizing Cell Behavior in 3D: A Tour of Biology Research Praxis" by Tim Fessenden

    “Visualizing Cell Behavior in 3D: a tour of biology research praxis” 

    Tim Fessenden

    Cells serve as unending sources of biological knowledge for the scientific community, but their behaviors remain poorly understood in many contexts. This is especially so for tissues – collectives of cells – which undergo movement and deformations during normal physiological processes as well as in disease states, such as cancer. To investigate both collective and individual cell motility behaviors, my doctoral work requires imaging cell collectives over long timescales. As such, my work relies heavily on my ability to faithfully produce and interpret images of cell collectives in 3D. This talk will first introduce the technical methodology that I use, and then will explore how acquired images are processed and interpreted to support knowledge claims about motile cell behaviors. Through this tour of data acquisition and interpretation, I aim to provide examples of the formation of a working object of scientific knowledge and the world in which it is found. I focus on the emergence of this world and its inhabitants through different spatial scales, as a collaboration among humans, non-humans, and technology.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
  •  

    "To Trust or Not to Trust: Telescopic (mis)Information on the Early Modern Stage" by Vivian Appler

     “To Trust or Not to Trust: Telescopic (mis)Information on the Early Modern Stage”

    Vivian Appler

    Galileo Galilei’s Siderius Nuncius (1610) announced to early modern Europe the introduction of a new machine to the labor of astronomy: the telescope. This manuscript made claims about the topography of the moon and announced the discovery of three new stars, which Galileo named after his benefactors, the Medicis. Galileo’s claims would be transformed into fodder for theatrical satire well into the end of the seventeenth century. Early modern philosophers of science were the first to incorporate machines into the process of re-visioning the contents of outer space, which caused a rift in the European academy. The debate over such machines, and the reliability of the information derived from them, quickly became the subject of popular plays and performances of the time. The seventeenth century stage was teeming with telescopes.

    Giambattista della Porta, who claimed to have invented the telescope before Galileo, also wrote the commedia erudita, Lo Astrologo, in 1606. Della Porta’s play soon became a primary source for Thomas Tomkis’s English farce, Albumazar (1615), which pokes fun at the idea of mechanical instruments constructed to enhance human perception. Aphra Behn’s comedy, The Emperor of the Moon (1687 – also based on an Italian commedia) raises questions about knowledge gained through the medium of the telescope and mocks the characters who value such information. The seventeenth century was a time, in England and in Italy, during which the distinction between the sciences and the arts were not as fixed as they might seem today, a disciplinary fuzziness which may have contributed to a cultural rejection of empiricism. This paper considers the reasons why the visual information presented through the lens of the telescope was suspect, and what role theatrical performances had in perpetuating and/or challenging such a culture of mistrust.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
  •  

    "Drawings from the Other Side" by Alicia Puglionesi

    “Drawings from the other side”
    Alicia Puglionesi


    Researchers in psychology and the cognitive sciences often look to the production and analysis of drawings to reveal the mental processes of their subjects. This talk presents three episodes that trace the emergence of drawing as an instrumental practice in the study of the mind. Between 1870 and 1950, the drawings of psychological subjects gained currency as a form of scientific evidence – as stable, reproducible signals from a hidden interior.

    This story begins with the use of drawings as data in the child-study movement, established by G. Stanley Hall in the 1870s, which aimed to produce an “inventory of the child mind.” It then moves to the telepathic transmission of drawings in psychical research, which adapted Hall's simple drawing activity as a tool for the scientific investigation of telepathy. Psychical researchers hoped to determine whether “impressions from the minds of those about us [can reach] our own minds by channels distinct from those of the senses.” Finally, I link this practice with the development of drawing as an experimental tool for studying neurological impairment. Drawings elicited from neuropsychiatric patients in the mid-twentieth century were understood to reveal particular breakdowns in the internal communication pathways of the brain. When the drawings of brain-injured patients appeared as figures in the scientific literature, they formed a taxonomy of lesions and a topology of communication failure.

    Thus, in the twentieth century, the same drawing exercises that once illustrated the universality of concepts and the porous boundaries of the self had become a tool for diagnosing the fragmentation of individual cognitive functions. In exploring these three cases, I link the role of drawing in investigations of the mind to the rhetoric of scientific images: where and how visual information can travel depends on our understanding of the seeing, thinking, and representing self.

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
  •  

    "Stripped Bare: Dissecting Wax, Print, and Paper Bodies in Antebellum America" by Juliet Sperling

    “Stripped Bare: Dissecting Wax, Print, and Paper Bodies in Antebellum America”
    Juliet Sperling

    The visual culture of 1840s Philadelphia was teeming with dissected bodies: sliced open, disassembled, and peeled apart layer by layer. As a popular anatomy craze swept the United States, crowds of thousands swarmed to public dissection lectures that featured life-size papier- mâché manikins. In emerging medical museums, visitors watched more delicate demonstrations on the lifelike wax forms of imported Anatomical Venuses. At home, curious viewers rehearsed their own procedures with “dissected plate” anatomy books, illustrated with intricately layered flaps that opened to reveal the body’s hidden depths. Movement dominated these new visions of the body—a soulless animation that living forms could never sustain, marked by excavations, expansions, and penetrations.

    This paper explores how these seemingly discrete aesthetic experiences converged on the stage of an emerging mass visual culture. I argue that movement—witnessed, remembered, and reenacted—was the crucial common feature that allowed audiences to suture otherwise disconnected perceptual experiences. In order to reconstruct these imaginative processes, I examine the intersection of two types of mass engagement with movable images of the human form: first, America’s first public exhibitions of lecture manikins and Anatomical Venuses, life-size demountable beauties with medical knowledge hidden beneath their wax flesh; and second, anatomy books with movable “dissected plate” illustrations, printed and distributed widely in the United States beginning in 1846. By tracing how visual knowledge was transmitted between separate media encounters, I identify an important shift in understanding bodily surfaces as increasingly unreliable sites of empirical knowledge.

    https://upenn.academia.edu/JulietSperling 

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge
  •  

    "Equivocating Diagrams: The Many Epistemic Virtues of C.H. Waddington's Images and Arguments" by Matthew Allen

    “Equivocating Diagrams: the many epistemic virtues in C H Waddington’s images and arguments”
    Matthew Allen

    The argument has been that images are particularly revealing windows onto scientific production – choices of visualization put “epistemic virtues” on display for all to see. In Objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison persuasively describe hard-working scientists toiling away with photographic equipment in pursuit of mechanical objectivity and experts creating interpretive drawings to convey their trained judgment. In each case, a singular scientific persona, a distinct set of visualization techniques, and a particular type of image are linked neatly together.

    But what about those cases in which images equivocate and values refuse to be categorized? Sometimes in the course of knowledge generation images are deployed which suggest very different things and may even be odds with each other. In this paper I will analyze a series of diagrams created between 1940 and 1966 by developmental biologist Conrad Hal Waddington, all meant to explain the same pair of concepts (the chreod and the epigenetic landscape). Each diagram in isolation is relatively straightforward, explaining a different aspect of his theoretical concepts and suggesting different possibilities for intervention in developing embryos. But seen in the context of Waddington’s ambitious program for what he called “theoretical biology,” these images work against the deliberate typecasting done by his intellectual rivals – particularly Ernst Mayr, successful proponent of the so-called Modern Synthesis. Waddington’s diagrams act as mediating devices, helping the viewer/reader understand the subtleties of his theories. They militate against what Waddington saw as overly-simplistic attempts to bracket one area of biological knowledge from another. As a set, these contradictory images point towards a complex, nuanced theoretical model for which no simple analogy, no singular persona, and no discrete set of epistemic values would suffice. 

    To open up to a larger discussion of the connections between epistemic virtues and visualization, I will end with an analysis of the most famous of Waddington’s diagrams. Placing it in the context in which it was published, and keeping a close eye on the disciplinary arguments at work, I will show that, even in this single instance, Waddington toggles between very different personas and virtues in a way that would seem schizophrenic in Daston’s and Galison’s account. This suggests that even straightforward images typically support many different ways of seeing and contrasting values, and that a larger discursive apparatus is required to either limit or expand their interpretation.

    Images are depictions of Conrad Hal Waddington's concept of the epigenetic landscape. The ball represents a cell, and the branching system of valleys represents the division and specialization of cells during the development or an organism. Each valley in the landscape is formed by tension on guy ropes that are attached pegs stuck in the ground, which represent genes. From Waddington, C. H. The Strategy of the Genes (Geo Allen & Unwin, London, 1957).

    Allen's talk is now an article published in Volume 4 of Contemporaneity: http://contemporaneity.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/contemporaneity/article/view/143

    Categories: 
    • Debating Visual Knowledge