The More Manipulations, the Better

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« Je mehr Manipulationen, desto besser » in collective Maschinensehen, Feldforshung in den Raumen bildgebender technologien, Spector Books pp. 31-38 ; Steve Woolgar « The More Manipulations the Better » MIT Press. A note for a book edited by Catelijne Coopmans, Michael Lynch, Janet Vertesi & Steve Woolgar, NEW REPRESENTATION IN SCIENTIFIC PRACTICE.


At first, the temptation is great to treat the visual aspects of so many scientific instruments, papers, posters and displays in the same ways as art historians have considered visualization in their own fields of practice. But if it is true that paintings, photographs, engravings, installations refer many times to other works of art by practicing a form of overt or hidden citations, allusions, parodies or displacements, in science the connection between visual documents is completely different. Every image refers to another image —or better an inscription— that comes before it and that is itself transformed, yet again, by another inscription down the road thus forming long cascades of successive traces. Those traces are separated by gaps that the evolution of instruments allied to that of interpretative skills try to narrow down as much as possible. But this narrowing down, that’s what is so odd, is obtained by multiplying yet again the number of steps along those cascades of transformations.