Visuals & Representations

Oh. It’s really been a while.

I didn’t think teaching and writing and conferencing would take up so much of my time.

I was prepping for next week’s lecture, on Darwin in Caricature and was reminded of my first post for Giant’s Shoulders, posted almost exactly a year ago, on Visuals and Representations in the History of Science. It’s perhaps fitting that the graduate journal, Spontaneous Generations: A Journal in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology just issued a new call for papers:

Spontaneous Generations Call for Papers for Volume 6: Visual Representation and Science

Spontaneous Generations is an open, online, peer-reviewed academic journal published by graduate students at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto.

Spontaneous Generations publishes high quality, peer-reviewed articles on any topic in the history and philosophy of science. For our general peer-reviewed section, we welcome submissions of full-length research papers on all HPS-related subjects. Scholars in all disciplines, including but not limited to HPS, STS, History, Philosophy, Women’s Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, and Religious Studies are welcome to submit to our sixth (2012) issue. Papers from all historical periods are welcome.

In addition to full-length peer-reviewed research papers, Spontaneous Generations publishes opinion essays, book reviews, and a focused discussion section consisting of short peer-reviewed and invited articles devoted to a particular theme. This year’s focus is “Visual Representation and Science.”

Submission Guidelines The journal consists of four sections:

1. The focused discussion section, this year devoted to “Visual Representation and Science” (see below). (1000-3000 words recommended.)
2. A peer-reviewed section of research papers on any topics in the fields of HPS and STS. (5000-8000 words recommended.)
3. A book review section for books published in the last 5 years. (Up to 1000 words.)
4. An opinions section that may include a commentary on or a response to current concerns, trends, and issues in HPS. (Up to 500 words.)

1. Submissions should be sent no later than 24 February 2012 in order to be considered for the 2012 issue. For more details, please visit the journal homepage at

Focused Discussion Topic: Visual Representation and Science

How do scientists use visual representations? A cursory examination of scientific practice suggests that images are used extensively; from textbooks to lab books, from private notes to public lectures, images are often researchers’ and educators’ favorite tool in understanding and explaining the objects of their inquiry.

However, it is only recently, with scholars’ turn towards examining scientific practice, that the cognitive and social implications of scientific imagery have come under investigation. Historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science have begun to ask how scientists use visual techniques to assist in their reasoning, embody their theories, frame and control debates, and convince their publics. From adaptive landscapes to Cayley graphs, from drawings of early hominids to medical imaging, the pictures that scientists use every day to illustrate, deduce, and understand have come under investigation.

In this issue of Spontaneous Generations, we invite papers for a focused discussion that will explore and give new perspectives on the relationship between science and its visual representations, from antiquity to the present.

Some questions that may be addressed by papers submitted for the focused discussion section include, but are not limited to:

– What are the role(s) of visualizations in scientific practice?

– How should we understand the relationship between schematic images and the complex, natural objects they represent?

– What validity should be ascribed to scientific mental pictures and/or thought experiments?

– How do images reflect and influence scientific values? How do images affect the content of science?

– How have scientific representations contributed towards particular conceptions of the objects and theories of science?

– How have changing visual technologies affected scientific theory and practice?

– How have certain visualizations come to signify and embody specific scientific entities and theories?

– How should we understand the visual decisions taken in the design of scientific models, instruments and apparatus?

– Which factors determine how scientists visualize “invisible” entities, such as biological processes, subatomic particles, or chemical states?

– What is the epistemic status of visual models and simulations?

Please distribute freely. Apologies for cross-postings.


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