Accepted paper:

A real world laboratory and the vital role of visuals in tracing the trail of a lethal virus


Linda Madsen (University of Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how images and maps contribute to enacting localized disease situations, thereby to make them both manageable and "global".

Paper long abstract:

One major matter of concern regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza is weather wild birds are capable of long-distance transportation of such virus, thus possibly contribute to worldwide spread of a virus with pandemic potentials. Based on multi-sited fieldwork (Marcus 1995) "out in the field" at avian influenza outbreak places across Turkey, and "in" illustrated reports on the same outbreaks, this paper attends to how visuals contribute to enacting (Mol 2002, but also Asdal 2008) disease situations (Hinchliffe et al. 2017), in ways that makes them manageable, both locally and internationally (Madsen 2015; 2016). Images visualise the local outbreak sceneries and potential ways of viral transmission at a distance; in the form of illustrated outbreak investigation reports, versions of local outbreaks enter the World Organization for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the European Commission, where they meet up with documented outbreaks in other countries and form avian influenza as a global concern. STS laboratory studies have demonstrated how images and other inscription devices contribute in the production and transportation of scientific facts. This paper moves laboratory studies "out in the field"; to outbreak places and surrounding wetlands - that is so-called real world laboratories. It shows how local and international ornithologists and epidemiological experts strive to prove the role of wild birds in introducing highly pathogenic avian influenza to Turkey. By highlighting the effects of geological and ecological aspects and of visuals, this paper argues for the vital role of non-human materials in issue formations.

panel E04
Meeting the visual