Taking a good look at why scientific images don't speak for themselves

de Rijcke, S. & Beaulieu, A., Oct-2007, In : Theory & Psychology. 17, 5, p. 733-742 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

This review focuses on what scientific images can do, by considering three books in which they are central. We problematize the assumption that images can simply show and that the viewer can simply see what is at hand. Images are neither self- explanatory nor transparent, but rather partake in a specific visual culture. If they are to serve as bridges ( e. g. to popularize scientific results), then they are only effective insofar as cultural conventions are shared. Felice Frankel's how- to book demonstrates the complexity of making photographs transparent, while keeping these processes backstage. Joseph Dumit's anthropological analysis of brain scans focuses on tensions between uses of scans inside and outside the lab. In Matthews and McQuain's book, pairings of scans with Shakespearean theatre stand in for neuroscientific and artistic approaches to human nature. The attempt to join these very different spheres shows the dangers of going beyond shared understandings of visual material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-742
Number of pages10
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2007


  • brain, mediation, objectivity, representation, visualization

ID: 4640946