Seminar – Silvia Casini: Visualising Data: A study of biomedical imaging practices in MRI innovation, past and present

January 18, 2018 – h. 16.00

Sala del Consiglio – Via Cesarotti 10/12, Dip. FISPPA – University of Padova


Silvia Casini  (Lecturer in Visual Culture of Science and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, UK)

Visualising Data: A study of biomedical imaging practices in MRI innovation, past and present


In recent years, visual culture research entered into a dialogue with STS to investigate the material contexts and practices that make use of computerised visualizations and models (Carusi et. al. 2015). Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have always been at the forefront of biomedical imaging research, initially thanks to the construction in the late 1970s of the world’s first whole-body clinical Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner led by Professor Mallard and, more recently, associated with the development of Fast Field-Cycling MRI, a new method for creating better quality images of the body and the brain.

Using both archival and ethnographic methods (Latour and Woolgar 1979, Knorr-Cetina 1999), this paper analyses the visual and material practices as they unfold in the laboratory. I explore how decision-making processes related to the acquisition, visualisation and interpretation of data were and still are crucial elements in the development of novel techniques for visualising the brain. The study of the archival material on the development of the first MRI scanner combined with fieldwork in the laboratory in which the new MRI is under development, highlights the importance of data visualisation before a new biomedical imaging technique becomes standardised. Making explicit the forces and procedures at work in the development of the new MRI opens up visualisation alternatives – for example, alternatives to the “extreme image” problem highlighted by Dumit (2014). Greater understanding of alternative visual representation choices enables researchers to better address the differing needs of future scientific, clinical and patient communities.

Pa.S.T.I.S. riunisce dal 2008 le attività inerenti lo studio sociale dei media, della scienza, della tecnologia e dell’innovazione di un gruppo di ricercatori operanti presso la sezione di Sociologia del Dipartimento di Filosofia, Sociologia, Pedagogia e Psicologia Applicata (FISPPA) dell’Università di Padova.