Transtechnology Research Seminar Series 2020-21

Versalius at the Printers: Perception, Representation, and Vocabularies. A Scattered Seminar Series.

Last year’s seminar series brought considerations of the triad of fiction, image and apparatus to bear on our research process. This year we intend to consider the outcomes of research in relation to its mode of representation. As leitmotif we will take the work of Andreas Vesalius, (1514-1564) frequently referred to as the founder of human anatomy. Whether this title is truly deserved or not– as there were many precedents– Versalilus’ research methods and the representation of his ideas that he adopted c.500 years ago relate to much that we do today. He (and others before him) were not content with the orthodox accounts of the object of study and examined the methods and protocols that underpinned those accounts. He asked new questions and, against the grain of the times he became physically involved with the practice of dissection and came to different models of how we might talk about the body as a series of nested systems that were coextensive with other ideas about how the world might be understood.  While Vesalius may not have been the only anatomist, he has remained a point of reference in any history of the idea. The relevance of his work to our own research is the degree to which the way that he captured the insights of his practice contributed not only to their dissemination and acceptance but also, (and perhaps the most interesting question) how much the mode of representation contributed to the kinds of knowledge that he valued. In short what is the productive correlation between research methods and the representation of research findings. 

The virtues and constraints of academic publishing conventions have been widely discussed and critiqued. Of particular interest to us in the past has been how vocabularies form around topics that build an intellectual and (epistemic) solidarity (Rorty, 1989). While Latour (1987) picks this up and invites us to think about knowledge and the communities of production in science, the degree to which this critique has rehearsed the mantra of the artistic Avant Gard for the past 500 years is a less well trodden path. Vesalius presents an interesting case of this in the way that his knowledge claims were codified in woodcuts and other forms of print; media that reinforce the underpinning assumptions of human anatomy, health and its reflection in other knowledge structures. The way which Versalius’ work was presented was instrumental in its adoption in science for a number of reasons; representing innovations in format and distribution as well as in their fundamental approach to the (messy) body as source of empirical knowledge. The example of Versalius’ work offers a thematic frame for considering the ways in which innovations in research communication do not only influence the uptake of ideas, but their fundamental form. As researchers in creative disciplines, the questions of the relation between the knowledge that we are producing and its consistency with the representations that we use to share those insights effectively has already raised many discussions that we will seek to explore in the series as our provisional titles below show. 

Format: A Scattered Seminar Series:
We will begin on the assumption that for 20/21 the seminar series will comprise online meetings using video links. As in many of our previous series, in this year Transtechnology Research registered researchers will be using the seminar series sessions to present work emerging from the research questions of their projects to address the themes of the seminar series. In addition to this we will use video links to extend the programme with sessions with the Transtechnology Research alumni cohort with topic-led conversations.

In support of these dialogues this year we are keeping an online bibliography of the discussions to document the materials that are mentioned, recommended, or discussed.

Shared materials/Reading list

Dates and Provisional Titles 2020-21
All Sessions on a Wednesday Afternoon: from 13:00-15:00. Preceeded by lunch at 12:30.

Dates and Provisional Titles 2020-21
All Sessions on a Wednesday Afternoon: from 13:00-15:00. Proceeded by lunch at 12:30.

14 Oct 2020. Dr Agi Haines, Dr Hannah Drayson, Prof. dr. Michael Punt. Vesalius at the Printers.

11 Nov 2020
Lucinda Guy. A Cuckoo in the Wood – recording, reproducing and representing birds and trees in sound.

9 Dec 2020
Stephanie Moran. Luminosity and Chromatic Experience: A Speculative Octopoid Aesthetics.  

6 Jan 2021
Linan Zhang. The Liberal Ironist’s Approach to Clinical Knowledge Sharing.

3 Feb 2021
Karen Squire. Anatomical map making: signification and simplification in representing bodies of flesh and bodies of land.

3 Mar 2021
Sarah Turton. Healing the rup(rap)ture  of transcendental experience in soul transformation; the anatomy of soul in psychonautics and psychotherapy.

31 Mar 2021
Jo Dorothea-Smith. Title TBC.

21 Apr 2021
James Sweeting. The anatomy of a deceptive industry – how high technology is masking nostalgic practices.

19 May 2021
Laura Welsman. Vesalius and Laffoley: Operation and Representation in the Diagrammatic and Anatomical.