Saturday, April 10, 2010

4/10: How did nonscientific use of new visual tech influence its use by scientists?

:Last Update: 04-10-2010 08:30:47


04-09-2010 23:43:02

The discussion of new imaging technology is going strong, and I hope it continues. There have been several comments about how developments in visual culture have influenced science, and I would be interested in hearing examples of how scientists picked up ideas from the use of new imaging technology and introduced them into their research techniques.

04-10-2010 03:19:04

I have a problem with the way that you have phrased the question because I think it sets up a false dichotomy between scientists and the culture they live in. Scientists are part of culture, as they grow up exposed to all the artefacts of visual cultural (and non visual) it shapes the way that their cognition develops.
There is a nice quote from Einstein:
“The universe of ideas is just as independent of the nature of our experience as clothes are of the form of the human body”

Varela has a related quote:
"All knowledge is conditioned by the structure of the knower" .

An interesting book on the way that ideas develop across the range of intellectual cultures is Linda Henderson's book on the Fourth Dimension in Art and Science which has a number of examples of how visual representations of higher dimensional spaces framed the way that mathematicians and physicists attacked the problems in their own fields.

The visual culture that scientists grow up in as children frames the way they imagine ( Jules Verne: You can invent only what you can imagine).

04-10-2010 07:39:41
Certainly in imaging neuroscience we are harnessing the power of new visualisation technologies to make our stories more convincing and of course to explore our data better. We did not evolve to see 'true 3D' since most objects in the world we encounter are surfaces not full volume objects (oranges not jellyfish, technically we see best 2D manifolds embedded into 3D). But rendering techniques, animation and especially the ability to rotate and manipulate images in real time in an intuitive way have advanced the field.

04-10-2010 08:30:47
In response to Roger's comment, I agree that scientists are part of the culture. What I was trying to get at was a tendency in discussions such as this to assume that the ideas about a broad concept such as evolution originate in science and are reflected elsewhere or that the engineers who develop a technology are the ones who best understand how it can be used. It is really to say that scientists are part of the culture and that the sources of their ideas are found not just within the work of other scientists.


04-11-2010 13:35:36
Veering this thought process further away from the a list of technology generated by the Visual Art community toward the eugenics topic along with the Two Cultures enigma I fear a commonality of people is lost from our conversation. So on a more personal thought process:

As a visual artist who has tremendous respect for science and scientists, most scientists I know are artists. They approach their (art) work with conceptual skills and a craft honed over centuries. Essentially since Linneaus named the world and created an organized structure for collection and cataloguing science became a systematic art form.

Equivalent and more obvious arguments can be made that art incorporates science. Art materials are often bi-products of science. I regularly use materials developed for scientific purposes and have sought the help of scientists specializing in liquid preservation and natural history collecting and collection. But I am a blue collar visual artist who knows that I am not a scientist. I try to keep up with the latest scientific literature on the amphibian decline, but also understanding gleaning fully from scientific literature is beyond my sphere of knowledge.

Yes, visual art and science cultures overlap and we all suffer from a lack of acceptance of our mutual strengths as well as our separate abilities.

Back to the topic of technology stemming from the visual arts:

I once wrote a protocol for casting delicate amphibians from natural history collections. While I had hopes it was never published. Were I a scientific student PHD candidate I could have pushed the protocol through the process or understood why it was not worthy of publication. As a visual artist working in the fringe of science I would love to be published in the scientific world ---and while not literally rejected by the scientific process I find little support for incorporating the visual arts into the structure of science.

Delicate specimens cast in great detail can be seen considerably differently than the original specimen. Interpreting differences between work is a basic axiom of visual art. So I believe an opportunity exists on a personal level to explore a crossing between the processes of science and art that could be overlooked in a cultural context of exchange.

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