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Images of Knowledge

The Epistemic Lives of Pictures and Visualisations

Edited By Nora S. Vaage, Rasmus T. Slaattelid, Trine Krigsvoll Haagensen and Samantha L. Smith

The authors consider the relationship between knowledge and image, though multi-faceted, to be one of reciprocal dependence. But how do images carry and convey knowledge? The ambiguities of images means that interpretations do not necessarily follow the intention of the image producers. Through an array of different cases, the chapters critically reflect upon how images are mobilised and used in different knowledge practices, within certain knowledge traditions, in different historical periods. They question what we take for granted, what seems evident, what goes without saying. This approach spans across established categories such as «scientific imaging», «religious images» and «artworks», and considers how images may contribute meaning across such categories.
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Images of Knowledge


What do we mean by “images of knowledge”? In the context of this book the term denotes a flexible concept that can accommodate a variety of objects, approaches and processes, but that has a gravitational pull sufficient to secure its integrity. The following chapters analyse images that originate in a variety of artistic, scientific and religious practices, some of which are centuries apart. A core premise of Images of Knowledge is the shared idea that thinking about, through and with images across ages can broaden our understanding of how images produce, convey, and frame diverse kinds of knowledge in different ways.

Similar to W.J.T. Mitchell, we understand “images” in a broad sense, including both physical, digital and mental figures: pictures, visualisations, and even visions of technologies.1 According to Mitchell “you can hang a picture, but you cannot hang an image”.2 An image can, but needn’t, also be an object.3 The juxtaposition of different images across epochs opens up for exploring how knowledge and images are interconnected and in continuous (ex)change. Furthermore, these investigations might enable us to catch sight of similarities and differences within this broad family of images, and might thus bring us closer to an understanding of how they make sense within their own specificities, as well as in light of other images.

Our claim that images can convey and produce knowledge is obviously grounded in a broader concept of knowledge than the propositional one.4 We do not claim ← 9...

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