lu.se

IGLU - Image Group at Lund University

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

IGLU - Image Group at Lund University

IGLU - Image Group at Lund University - is devoted to the multidisciplinary study of scientific images and visualization today, and the epistemological, social and aesthetic questions that follow from scientific imaging.

IGLU aims to bring together scholars from the humanities and the natural and medical sciences, in order to combine and contrast their perspectives on scientific imaging, through high-level, yet relaxed dialogue.

 

To subscribe to IGLU's email list, please visit hyphoff.kult.lu.se/mailman/listinfo/imagegroup

(you may shift language in the drop-down list in the upper right corner)

 

Background

Since the 1970s, computer-aided technologies for visualization have gained momentum as a crucial tool for the organization and communication of knowledge in the natural and medical sciences. Remote sensing of sonic and electromagnetic radiation (EMR), outside the spectrum of visible light, has radically increased the amounts of accessible data. In the 1870's, the British Challenger expedition completed around 350 deep sea soundings across the globe in three and a half year; a century later the first Seasat satellite registered 25 million soundings in three months. Similarly, in the medical sciences, technologies like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) derive enormous data quantities from the body's interior, without having to resort to the scalpel.

As a result, the ability to sift comprehensible information out of immense data masses has become critical. To that end, computerized algorithms that "translate" data into visual expressions such as images, maps and graphs have brought forth a "visualism in science" (Ihde), a new compelling visual culture of science, which extends into popular science, popular culture, and art.

From the micro- to the macrocosmic, science today may seem to have expanded human vision to encompass every dimension of physical reality. However, although often framed by a rhetoric of transparence, the transformed pictorial world of science generates interesting epistemological and hermeneutic challenges in every part of the process from data to knowledge and meaning. Pictorial representation in itself is contingent here, in the sense that there is nothing visual inherent in sonic waves and non-visual EMR: the measured data could as well be (and are sometimes ) represented as texts, numbers, or sound sequences.

Furthermore, as colors are linked to variable parameters and threshold values (false color, pseudo-color), any data set could be given an indefinite number of visual expressions, each displaying a selected range of information. Thus the look of any given picture reflects decisions grounded in epistemological as well as communicative and aesthetical concerns. And as scientific pictures traverse disciplinary boundaries and as they spread into political, commercial and artistic contexts, they get enveloped in yet other interpretative practices which add to their layers of signification.

In parallel, the conceptualization in the biosciences of organic life itself as moldable and mimetic (genetic engineering, cloning) has given rise to notions such as “biopictures” (Mitchell) and “biofacts” (Karafyllis) which demonstrate the instability of the reality/representation dichotomy.

The humanities today are accustomed to the notion of the “pictorial turn” (Mitchell) or “ikonische Wendung” (Boehm) of a late modern society, in which knowledge and experience are mediated predominantly through images. Yet, the contemporary role of the image in science - where the pictorial turn has been perhaps the most revolutionary – and the intersections between the visual arts and the sciences have only recently begun to be addressed by the humanities (Stafford, Elkins, Reichle, et al.).

 

To subscribe to IGLU's email list, please visit hyphoff.kult.lu.se/mailman/listinfo/imagegroup

(you may shift language in the drop-down list in the upper right corner)