The Epistemic Lives of Pictures and Visualisations
Edited By Nora S. Vaage, Rasmus T. Slaattelid, Trine Krigsvoll Haagensen and Samantha L. Smith
Beyond Representation? Making sense of nano images
“The time is ripe to think about images beyond representation” Lorraine Daston1
“Whatever escape we may seek, when it comes to the heart of what the sciences are about, we touch on representation.” Hans-Jorg Rheinberger2
“…representation is not to be subjected to definition: it is inexhaustible as a subject.” Bas C. van Fraassen3
Are scientific images representations of an independently existing reality, or do they in fact serve different purposes? Recent efforts to move “beyond” the idea of representation in studies of scientific images, suggest that the idea of representation is a problem in need of a solution, and that in order to solve it we should to get rid of it. However, this chapter examines how the problem of representation is articulated in recent literature on nano images,4 and finds that discussions about representation in nano images in all these cases entail the idea of moving beyond representation.
The idea that a scientific image accurately represents a mind-independent reality in some way or another is intuitievely plausible. In a wider context, scientific realism with regard to knowledge builds on the assumption that the link between scientific theories, models and images on the one hand, and reality on ← 79 | 80 → the other, is unbroken.5 Given the primacy of this relationship, the appearance of discontinuities and ruptures regarding this link raise fundamental doubts about the epistemological status of scientific images, as well as about the status of our visual knowledge...
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