Visualisation in the age of computerisation

For more information:

Call for proposals deadline: 1 December 2010

Conference: 25-26 March 2011, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
The Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) is organising a two-day conference on 25-26 March 2011 at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, with support from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Oxford e-Social Science project.
Speakers include:

  • Peter Galison, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University
  • Michael Lynch, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
  • Barbara Maria Stafford, Distinguished University Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Steve Woolgar, InSIS, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

Summarising discussants:

Visualisations abound in all forms and phases of research and knowledge production and communication. From the graphical user interface of our computers, to equipment and instrument displays, to the screens of our smart phones, knowledge communication of all kinds is increasingly visual. In design, engineering, science, education, medicine, the humanities and social sciences, the increasing pervasiveness of visual images is due largely to computational techniques. To be sure, computers have been in common use in science and related domains since the advent of the desktop computer. Over the past decade, however, plain text commands, programming languages and numerical engagement have given way to the visual form, from the reproduction, modification and synthesis of images to the visual representation of that which formerly could not be seen.
There has been an unprecedented rate of innovation in computational imaging and visualising techniques to render physical and non-physical data in visual form, including techniques for multi-dimensionality, the development of algorithmic techniques for image processing, the production of hybrid visual objects and an apparent photo-realism for non-existent entities and objects. The emergence of the Internet-as-database, with complex and massive quantities of data mined from online social and spatial processes given visual form, has gone hand-in-hand with these advances in making new phenomena and data visible.

Call for papers:
We welcome abstracts of 500-1000 words for papers on these topics. We also invite proposals for less conventional forums, such as conversations, performance pieces or installation works.
Submission Deadline:
1 December 2010 to
The pervasive computerisation of imaging and visualising challenges us to question what changes accompany computerised imagery, and whether, for instance, it is poised to transform science and society as thoroughly as the printing press and engraving techniques changed image reproduction (Eisenstein 1980, Rudwick 1976), or photographs altered art’s aura (Benjamin 1936).
Some art historians discern continuity in representational form from Renaissance single-point perspective to cinematic and digital arrays, from Alberti’s windows to Microsoft (Crary 1990, Friedberg 2006, Manovich 2000). Other commentators, such as W.J.T. Mitchell, Barbara Stafford or Howard Rheingold, understand our immersion in imagery as heralding a ‘visual turn’ with the engagement of knowledge in contemporary culture. James Elkins suggests visual literacy spans the specialised disciplines of the academy, while Robert Horn or Thomas West claim ‘visual thinking’ is primary and intuitive. High-tech may be enabling the reclamation of old visual talents devalued by word-bound modernist thought.
Notwithstanding these appraisals, it is as yet unclear what specific effects these innovations are having and whether claims regarding new and more effective visualising techniques and transformed modes of visual thinking are borne out. While not exhaustive, we offer several foci with potential to limn changes.

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