blurring the boundaries: ideas and implications

During a panel dedicated to “sensations in worlds…”  Thomas Lamarre paraphrased Gabriel Tarderegarding the issue of social textures and, in particular, the divide between things in the world and things of the mind: in opposition to Durkheim, who posited a preexisting divide between individual and society that must be mediated through exchange,Tarde advocated “modes of individuation in which individual and society are already entangled.” of course, this interpretation poses a challenge, as in order to examine the individual or society, we can no longer rely on the pre-established separations by categories, as individual and society, nature and nurture, biology and informatics, animal and human, human and machine intersect and overlap.

The above issue emerged during the conference and the exhibition over and over again since the very first presentation: Dolores Steinman, focusing on the connection and relationships between medical imagery (in particular models of blood flow), the scientific community made of several individuals with diverse range of interests, perspectives and education (medical doctors, clinicians, technicians, lab scientists and anatomists), and the public at large (the patient, or the lay person trying to make sense of medical models and imagery.

Steinman asked: what is an accurate representation of an organ? what is the perception of the lay public? is it possible to portray an accurate “picture” that bypasses all ambiguities and coveys the same message to the family doctor, the anatomist, the lab scientist and the patient?

her skepticism is historically grounded, as she observed that this particular issue of representation has always been a challenge since the early days when representation became crucial to science. Changes in the human ability to process the information acquired, in the skills required for representing this information as well as the technology at hand, have often been a challenge. While the models produced (today rigorously computer generated) may all reflect different understandings and scientific goals, they are, to put it with Steinman’s words,  “fold in the large canvas of body representations and we feel responsible for the layered meanings that get woven into the visual popular culture”
Figure: Evolution of virtual representations of blood flow in a simulated brain aneurysm, starting from
corresponding patient angiogram.