(E04)
Meeting the visual
Location Bowland North Seminar Room 7
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Dorothea Born (University of Vienna) email
  • Regula Valérie Burri (HafenCity University Hamburg) email

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Short abstract

What is the role of the visual in meetings and what meets in visuals? What matters of concern, realities, and practices of looking are assembled through visuals? What meeting spaces are provided in visuals, and who/what is silenced? How are discourses of power enforced or contested through visuals?

Long abstract

In contemporary visual culture(s), meetings would hardly be possible without the support of the visual. While visual technologies enable communication and facilitate the presentation of topics, catchy images raise attention for matters of concern while simultaneously contributing to their construction. Images allow issues to become visible; thus, establishing them as matters of concern by highlighting particular aspects while neglecting others. Hence, visuals can be defined as technologies of governance shaping societal issues, values, and beliefs whilst influencing how we make sense of the world. Whatever the context of use, images are never innocent but rather they are created through societal practices and imbued with cultural values. Yet, visuals are also polysemous, allowing for multiple interpretations and hidden meanings and, therefore, may provide spaces to contest dominant discourses.

In this panel, we aim to investigate the role of the visual in meetings and to explore what meets in visuals when images assemble particular knowledges, practices, and technologies. What matters of concern are constituted through certain visuals? Which realities are made visible and which are excluded or cannot be visualized? What meeting spaces do visuals provide? Who and what is silenced in processes of visualizing? How are discourses of power enforced through certain visuals? And how can visuals be used as a form of protest and dissent?

We encourage contributions from different areas.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

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

Author: Linda Madsen (University of Freiburg) email
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Short abstract

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

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.

Resisting visualizations. A cross-species and cross-field comparative exploration - part 1

Authors: Ann Rudinow Saetnan (Norwegian Institute for Science & Technology) email
Rocco Bellanova (University of Amsterdam) email
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Short abstract

This is part 1 of a 2-part paper exploring the meanings of resistances on the part of potential objects and subjects of visualizations in bird-watching and in human surveillance. Part 1 focuses primarily on resistances on the part of objects of visualization.

Long abstract

What does resisting visualization mean? Over the past few years, we have embarked in a cross-species and cross-field exploration of visual practices. We have focused on bird-watching and on digital surveillance, where humans, data and animals become the object of visualization. As one step in our journey, our attention now turns to resistances to visualization, be it on the part of the potential object of visualization or on the part of the might-otherwise-be visualizer. Given humans' tendency to rely on and to produce visual representations, and given the key positions of visualizations in both surveillance and bird-watching, why and how do those active in these fields sometimes resist producing visualizations? Here in part 1 we ask, from the point of view of those visualized, why and how do those targeted for visualization (sometimes successfully) resist being visualized? Working from a set of examples, we attempt to categorize motivations and techniques of resistance, and to draw implications of these for theories of surveillance and of digital media.

Normal x-ray images and liminal seeing: The process of transition between the normal and the abnormal frontier

Author: Peter Winter (University of Sheffield) email
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Short abstract

I explore medical imaging professionals value of expectation as a process of 'liminal seeing' in x-ray image interpretation training. The focus is on the specific ways in which highlighting/graphic representation feature as a transitory force in cultivating expectations of abnormality.

Long abstract

The broad range of forces shaping the delivery of medical image interpretation, including what some sociologists believe to be the accumulation of anatomic expectations within biomedical training (Cohn, 2009), draws attention to the unique process of liminality in learning to see radiographic anatomy. What is of interest here (besides differences in image content and conceptual structuring of critiquing anatomy) is that this represents a distinctive break from traditional (e.g. cognitivist) views of image interpretation training. Previous sociological research has observed professionals anatomic knowing whose clinical work offers a prior sense of how normal anatomy 'should be' within medical images (Saunders, 2008). However, limited research exists on how professionals initially receive this knowing and the discursive forces that cultivate expectations of visual-anatomic information. This paper explores the ways these anatomic expectations can be learned in normal radiographic anatomy training, and extents of pedagogical technique that reproduce problematic-anatomic knowledge for seeing and expecting the abnormal. Focusing on highlighting/graphic representations (Goodwin, 1994), I will demonstrate how professionals cultivate abnormal expectations in radiographic anatomy so that abnormality (which is absent in the anatomy) is made present (in the expectant sense). Normal x-ray images become constructed as having sites of trauma/pathology and accomplish the expectation of both normal anatomy (ideal) and potentially abnormal anatomy (bad). Whilst normal x-ray images have become a generative means for the expectation of normative forms of normal anatomy, I argue that a deeper expectation of anatomic concerns are also deployed in normal images that cultivates a type of 'liminal seeing'.

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Threatening, dominated, vulnerable: visualizations of nature in the climate change communication of GEO and National Geographic.

Author: Dorothea Born (University of Vienna) email
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Short abstract

This paper investigates the visual climate change communication strategies of the two popular science magazines GEO and National Geographic. Comparing articles and images published within the two magazines, I ask what kind of natures are made (in)visible within climate change visuals.

Long abstract

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges for humanity in the 21st century, radically putting into question traditional boundaries between nature and culture. Communicating this highly controversial issue has been a challenge for the media and scientists alike. Images are especially powerful tools in this endeavour since they help to personalize and localize this remote and abstract issue. Indeed, images of burning forests, dried up soils, flooded landscapes or animals in need readily come to mind when thinking of climate change. Yet, these visualisations also hold implicit conceptions of nature and contain normative statements about how humans should relate to the environment. This paper investigates the visual climate change communication strategies of the two popular science magazines GEO and National Geographic. Communicating to a specialized and highly educated public that also holds a multiplier function within society, these magazines are powerful actors in visualizing and imagining climate change, nature and our relation to the environment. Comparing articles and images published within the two magazines between 1992 and 2012, I want to ask what kind of natures are made (in)visible within these magazines' climate change visuals. Thereby, I explore how the political cultures and national contexts of the magazines' countries of issue impinge on the ways climate change is (visually) communicated and nature (re)imagined.

The black boxes of visual interfaces - study of the power structures in the field of gameplay

Author: PaweĊ‚ Gaska (Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, ul. Gagarina 11, 87-100 Torun, NIP: PL 879-017-72-91 ) email
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Short abstract

Using a mix of concepts from ANT, Bourdieu and Galloway I will analyze how the visual interfaces in games shape the structures of power. To answer questions about the distribution and redistribution of power, and which actors are capable of it, I will examine two case studies: WoW and Hellblade.

Long abstract

The field of gameplay is where human and non-human actors meet and negotiate their actions. The visual interface (or Graphical User Interface - GUI) acts as a bridge between the electrical, embedded in code understanding of a machine, and audio-visual experience that the human actor desires. As it often is with tools, the interface becomes transparent to its users. It's often treated as just an insignificant addition to the 'true, diegetic world of the game', yet it governs how the interactions will proceed.

In this paper I will analyze how the visual interfaces in games shape the structures of power in this medium. To do so I will be using concepts from Actor-Network Theory, augmented with the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu and Alexander R. Galloway. My research will focus on two case studies, polar opposites in the way they handle the interface. On one end of the spectrum will be World of Warcraft with it's customizable, overwhelming GUI, that hides its exercises of biopower by pretending to be neutral stream of data. On the other end there is the minimalistic GUI of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, which reveals it's importance to the storyworld, and by doing so manages to accurately portray the experience of psychosis. By comparing this two I will be able to answer how is the power distributed in this relation, can it be redistributed and which actors are capable of doing so.

Meeting gender in space: visual imagery in children's science books

Authors: Elizabeth Caldwell (Lancaster University) email
Susan Wilbraham (University of Cumbria) email
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Short abstract

Children's books about different science subjects show variation in the visual portrayal of gender. Maths and physics books have significantly fewer images of women than men, but biology books are gender balanced. Female astronauts are pictured doing less technical work in space than men.

Long abstract

Previous studies of both adult and children's media have found significant gender imbalances in the way that scientists are portrayed visually, with women under represented and depicted as having lower status. However, these studies have not examined the portrayal of gender between different scientific professions or in children's books about different science subjects. This study investigates the depiction of gender in children's science books through analysing the images in 160 science picture books for children. Firstly a content analysis was conducted of images of humans in maths, physics and biology books. The content analysis revealed that images in children's biology books had an even gender balance, while maths and physics books contained significantly more images of men than women. The second phase of the study involved a qualitative visual analysis of images of two professions popular with children: astronauts and doctors. The analysis revealed subtle differences in portrayal of the work of astronauts of different genders, which resulted in de-emphasising the technical responsibilities, and abilities, of female astronauts. In contrast, images of doctors showed no such differences and both male and female doctors were pictured performing the same tasks. Despite the efforts to include some pictures of female astronauts in children's books, the differences in the way that male and female astronauts were portrayed undermined any message about equality. For children's science books to contribute to addressing the paucity of women in the physical sciences, more consideration of these subtle aspects of visual communication is required.

Premediating a deep future: visualizations of deep geological repositories for radioactive waste

Author: Simon Zingerle (University of Vienna) email
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Short abstract

Building on a comparison of two promotional videos that envision the construction and operation of deep geological repositories for high level radioactive, this presentation explores the material politics of computer generated visualizations.

Long abstract

The question of how to properly and safely dispose of radioactive waste is one most pressing sociotechnical problems of our time. Governments across Europe are looking towards the construction of deep geological repositories (DGRs) as a possible solution. These repositories are envisioned as being able to safely isolate high level radioactive waste from the environment for at least one million years. In order to realize these monumental projects that extend far into the future, governments not only have to find suitable geological conditions and existing infrastructures, but communities surrounding the potential site must accept their presence as well, as the more conventional decide-announce-defend approach has previously met considerable resistance.

Promotional videos of DGRs, heavily relying on computer generated images (CGI), play a crucial role in governmental efforts to create acceptance for this technology. The use of CGI enables the videos' producers to make imagined subterranean structures visible and to carefully craft visual narratives--granting (hyper)visibility to particular matters of concern whilst simultaneously rendering others invisible.

This presentation draws upon a comparison of two videos created by the German and Finnish governments respectively, as part of their public information campaigns to promote the construction of DGRs. By exploring the material politics of these visualizations and highlighting their (dis)similarities, I will aim to understand the ways in which CGIs can become mobilized as tools of governance to premediate a desired future.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.