Giving Bodies Back to Data
Image Makers, Bricolage, and Reinvention in Magnetic Resonance Technology
An examination of the bodily, situated aspects of data-visualization work, looking at visualization practices around the development of MRI technology.
Our bodies are scanned, probed, imaged, sampled, and transformed into data by clinicians and technologists. In this book, Silvia Casini reveals the affective relations and materiality that turn data into image—and in so doing, gives bodies back to data. Opening the black box of MRI technology, Casini examines the bodily, situated aspects of visualization practices around the development of this technology. Reframing existing narratives of biomedical innovation, she emphasizes the important but often overlooked roles played by aesthetics, affectivity, and craft practice in medical visualization.
Combining history, theory, laboratory ethnography, archival research, and collaborative art–science, Casini retrieves the multiple presences and agencies of bodies in data visualization, mapping the traces of scientists' body work and embodied imagination. She presents an in-depth ethnographic study of MRI development at the University of Aberdeen's biomedical physics laboratory, from the construction of the first whole-body scanner for clinical purposes through the evolution of the FFC-MRI. Going beyond her original focus on MRI, she analyzes a selection of neuroscience- or biomedicine-inspired interventions by artists in media ranging from sculpture to virtual reality. Finally, she presents a methodology for designing and carrying out small-scale art–science projects, describing a collaboration that she herself arranged, highlighting the relational and aesthetic-laden character of data that are the product of craftsmanship and affective labor at the laboratory bench.
Hardcover$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262045292 312 pp. | 7 in x 10 in 70 b&w illus., 14 color plates
“Silvia Casini's brilliant study of data visualization in MRI imaging provides a window into an era in which understanding of bodies in techno-visual terms not only critically impacts healthcare and neuroscientific, biochemical, and physiological studies of the body, but also permeates public imaginaries.”
Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology; author of Imperial Technoscience: Transnational Histories of MRI in the United States, Britain, and India
“With thought-provoking analysis of the interplay of aesthetics and epistemics at every step in laboratory practice, Casini tells a fascinating story of bodies turned into data and images and challenges the current understanding of scientific practice and brings art–science collaborations to new levels by unpacking their true entanglement.”
Professor and Director, Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies, University of Lübeck
“By engaging the study of the aesthetic politics of body imaging in biomedicine, Casini opens up a whole new way of understanding MRI's role as a vital technocultural form. Giving Bodies Back to Data is a breakthrough book!”
Professor of Visual Arts, Communications and Science Studies, University of California, San Diego