Mittwoch, 18. Mrz 2015, 18:00 - 19:30 iCal

Vienna STS Talk

Prof. Regula Valerie BURRI: Theorizing imaging practices in medicine

STS Seminarraum, NIG St II, 6. Stock
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Wien


Visual representations play a crucial role to produce, circulate, and apply knowledge about nature, bodies, and things. While (scientific) images were explored in early laboratory studies and have been recognized as important epistemic instrument in STS, more general social theory has not been paying attention to visual subjects for a long time. This lack of thinking about the role of images and visuality in constituting and reproducing "the social" resulted in a lack of conceptual frameworks.

In this talk I will reconsider how images have been theorized in social theory, and how STS have contributed to enrich the understanding of images as both epistemic and material objects which result from and enable social practices at the same time. Following up on the Social Studies of Scientific Imaging and Visualization and suggesting the concepts "visual logic" and "visual rationalities" developed in my earlier work, I will show how these concepts may serve to analyze images from a practice perspective.

When inquiring into images and imaging practices by applying such concepts, I will further argue, images should not be reduced to their visual information. Ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with physicians and scientists working in radiology departments and magnetic resonance imaging units showed that images are used because of both their visual and nonvisual dimensions. Physicians and researchers are strongly guided by the visual power of images, however, the visual power is not always effective. Depending on a situation, physicians and scientists are guided more strongly either by the persuasiveness of an image’s visual qualities or its scientific and sociomaterial qualities. Analyzing the "doing images" in medicine, science, and other social fields must thus include both the doing and undoing of visuality in imaging practices.


Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung


Mag. Marion Kogler
Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung
+43-1-4277-496 01