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Visual (In)Sensibilities I

Fri, September 1, 9:00 to 10:30am, Sheraton Boston, 3, Beacon B

Session Submission Type: Traditional (Closed) Panel


Images are everywhere. They surround us, shape societal beliefs and value systems, and influence how we make sense of the world. Yet, images are not innocent representations of reality but created within societal practices and imbued with cultural values. Within contemporary visual cultures, visualizations are intrinsically linked to technological artifacts, such as cameras, x-rays, ultrasounds or MRIs. The development of digital image production and manipulation impinges in new ways on questions of the reproducibility and authenticity of images. At the same time, visualizations themselves can be regarded as technologies of perception that make the world sense-able. They play a fundamental role in the production of scientific knowledge (Latour & Woolgar) but also in the communication and dissemination of knowledge. While an important topic for STS in earlier years, recent STS engagements with images have been rather scarce. In this panel we want to re-open discussions of STS’ (in)sensibility towards the visual, promoting the social studies of scientific images and visualizations (SIV) (Burri & Dumit). We encourage contributions that investigate how visualizations make the world sense-able, focusing on the practices of imaging and imagining. Contributions may look at how (scientific) images are produced (as two- and three-dimensional artifacts, as static and moving objects, etc.), what kind of role they play within knowledge production, as well as at what happens when images travel beyond their contexts of production and engagement. We also encourage studies looking at the role of images in science popularization and communication.

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