From Microscopy to Nanotechnology: The Mediality of the Scientific Image


Session Title:

  • Nanoart

Presentation Title:

  • From Microscopy to Nanotechnology: The Mediality of the Scientific Image




  • Visual media technologies have always been used to bring about the scientific image. In his experiments Robert Koch has relied on photography because he valued the stability of the photographic image. Later on film played a pivotal role in physical experiments, microbiology – it was the first medium to provide an insight into the living body – and x-ray technology. Especially in the case of the x-ray film the borders between scientific exploration and entertainment blurred. Following on this we can observe the explosion of imaging technologies. In the course of this development the scientific image is gradually taken for the scientific object. This is a process which has started with Robert Koch, using photography as the basis for his scientific experiments and it ends with the image in nanotechnology, where the image completely stands for the invisible and unimaginably small scientific object.

    The papers wants to point to the following aspects of this development.

    1. Aspects of the epistemic image: Bruno Latour and Lorraine Daston have underlined that the visual image is brought about by social and technological contexts: there is no such thing as an “objective image”.
    2. Practices of visuality: Since the scientific image is always constituted in technological and cultural contexts, the paper seeks out to explore these contexts and it intends to demonstrate how visuality has to be understood as medial and cultural practice. Thus media technologies function as a dispositif, shaping the respective image.
    3. The blurring between science, popular culture and art: especially the image in nanotechnology travels between different contexts: it is used in nanotechnology but also serves as artistic image and image within popular culture. This point also wants to refer to the political implications of the nanotechnological image.