Representation in Scientific Practice

Technologies of imaging and observation have long been central to scientific practice. I have explored these questions of representation in scientific practice using the tools of sociology as well as history and philosophy of science.

My work on the Mars Rover mission explored how scientists work with digital imaging technologies and robots on Mars to produce knowledge about the Martian surface. My paper on the London Underground Map examined the role of iconic imagery in object interaction. I am currently co-editing a new volume of the classic Representation in Scientific Practice with Michael Lynch, Steve Woolgar, and Catelijne Coopmans that brings together contemporary work on representational technologies in contemporary scientific work.

My work in Early Modern astronomy explores the historical roots of these practices, focusing on how scientists incorporated the new observational and representational technologies afforded by the telescope and print media into their work, and with what consequences for the circulation of knowledge in the 17th century. I have published two papers on the astronomer Johannes Hevelius: his 'visual debate' with Jesuit Riccioli about how to map and name the moon ("Sicily, or Sea of Tranquility?"), and his argument with Robert Hooke over telescopic sights in positional astronomy (which, like most debates in history of astronomy, comes down to, is it how big your telescope is, or how you use it?).

I have also studied issues of representation in Eighteenth Century Chemistry, specifically on archival materials related to Madame Lavoisier's chemical illustrations for her husband's Traite Elementaire de Chimie (1789), and on the artist Joseph Wright of Derby and his 'scientific scenes', especially The Alchymist. On the philosophy of science side, my first book project develops a concept of theory-laden representation in science based on Wittgenstein's and Hanson's ideas of theory-laden observation, and during my MPhil at Cambridge I also developed a project on the use of testimony as a philosophical framework for understanding the construction of scientific images.

Finally, representations also include cultural imagery, film and other media, that affect and reflect how science is perceived by the public. Part of my work on the Rover mission examines how images are made for public consumption in a new convention I call "The Martian Picturesque". I also have an interest in Science Fiction in the cultural imaginary about science and technology: my article on cyborg women in science fiction was published in the anthology Sci Fi in the Mind's Eye (Open Court, 2007).

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