Art & Photos

The digital anatomy theater: scientific practices for representing the body

Description
Contemporary scientific practices for representing the body are investigated ethnographically through a comparative analysis with the Renaissance anatomy theater, a practice used to understand the body in early modern science. First and foremost, I
Categories
Published
of 19
4
Categories
Published
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Similar Documents
Share
Transcript
  v.18, n.3, July-Sept. 2011 641  The digital anatomy theater  The digital anatomytheater: scientificpractices for representing the body  Marko Monteiro Professor at Departamento de Política Científicae Tecnológica/Universidade Estadual de Campinas.13083-970 – Campinas – SP – BrazilP.O. BOX 6152markosy@ige.unicamp.brReceived for publication in August 2009.Approved for publication in July 2010. MONTEIRO, Marko. The digitalanatomy theater: scientific practices forrepresenting the body.  História,Ciências, Saúde – Manguinhos , Rio de Janeiro, v.18, n.3, jul.-set. 2011.Available at: http://scielo.br.AbstractContemporary scientific practices forrepresenting the body are investigatedethnographically through acomparative analysis with theRenaissance anatomy theater, apractice used to understand the bodyin early modern science. First andforemost, I seek to analyze the mannerthrough which visualizations of theinside of the body produce knowledgeof its functioning. The conclusion isthat, currently, the production of knowledge greatly privileges thevalidation of code and modeling of thebiological processes in which onewishes to intervene. The objective is tounveil the meanings of the circulationof images, data and theories that bringtogether material bodies, visualizationtechniques and scientists, enabling theproduction of truth about the body ina biological sense.Keywords : anatomy theater; scientificvisualization; the body; ethnography;computational modeling.  Translated by Naomi Sutcliffe de Moraes.  642 História, Ciências, Saúde – Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro Marko Monteiro C uriosity regarding the human body, its functioning and its interior, invisible to theunaided eye, is an important part of both Western culture and scientific practicessince their inception. Even before the emergence of that which we call modern science,practices investigating the internal structures of the human body had been prominent inthe visual culture of the West, both in art and the sciences. I do not intend to speculate,here, on the srcin of this immense curiosity. Rather, I just seek to interpret some of itsconnections with contemporary scientific practice in an attempt to investigate thedevelopment of distinct forms of producing knowledge of the human body. Additionally,interpretation of how these practices are related to broader sociocultural contexts is crucialto understanding the meaning of these practices.One could say that the investigation of the distinct methods of visually representingthe body may reveal a great deal about how a certain era and culture envisioned its worldand constructed ways of understanding it. In this article, however, I wish to study notonly images of the human body, but also the specific methods used to make it visible and,at the same time, cognoscible. In fact, the two terms cannot be dissociated easily, especiallyin what we call contemporary science, as demonstrated by an already extensive literatureon representation in science (Daston, Galison, 1990; Latour, 1990; Lynch, Woolgar, 1990b;Pauwels, 2006). Despite this, we encounter studies that analyze the images produced inscientific and artistic contexts much more frequently than those investigating the practicesused to produce these images. There is also a relative lack of ethnographic research on howthese images are produced and legitimized as true knowledge of the body.This article intends to help fill this gap by studying the contemporary practice of producing truth about the body through extensive use of images and what I call digitalobjects (Monteiro, 2009, 2010). These objects or virtual models in 3D are ‘manipulated’ byscientists in order to investigate the properties of specific structures in the human bodyand determine their functions. Built using mathematical codes, these models are thoughtto be faithful representations of natural processes and the modeling and digitalizationprocesses studied here are based on this legitimacy.I seek to construct a comparative analysis with another practice that was very importantin producing knowledge of the body, a practice that helped define some of the foundationsfor modern empirical science: the anatomy lessons of Renaissance Europe. My objective isto investigate the similarities and differences in these two rituals for producing knowledgeand visualizing the body. I try to understand the potential displacements in our currentmeans for visually understanding the body and the means considered to be legitimate forproducing truth with respect to the same body.The comparison between Renaissance anatomies and technological practices is notunprecedented. Commentaries on current visualization technologies make extensive useof comparison with anatomy theaters (Daly, Bell, 2008; Thacker, 1999; Van Dijk, 2000). Asfar as I could ascertain, none of these studies directly investigates this comparison withthe objective of understanding how contemporary rituals for producing visual evidenceare displacing consolidated paradigms based on the imperative of direct observation of the body, as established in Renaissance theaters. From this viewpoint, I seek to advancethe debate on the social methods for producing corporeal evidence, in addition to  v.18, n.3, July-Sept. 2011 643  The digital anatomy theater interpreting current visualization methods based on computational modeling asdisplacement (and not just continuity) of the principles established during of the birth of modern science.The decision to compare modern techniques with the anatomy theater is justified by thedesire to contrast body visualization practices at two critical times. The first was during theRenaissance, when scholastic anatomical knowledge practices, based on interpreting classicaltexts, gave way progressively to dissection and to observation of the body as the principalsource of knowledge (Bellini, 2005; Thacker, 1999). The second point in time, today, has seena transition from direct observation of the body to the growing use of digital representationas a way to see inside the body. Digital technologies, seen as the best way to eliminatemediation between the observer and his an empirical object, are replacing interventionistpractices that require destroying the observed object (as in dissections). A comparative analysisof the two practices seeks to reveal continuities and ruptures between the means of producingknowledge by manipulating the body and by manipulating images of its internal structuresin order to make current scientific methods for visualizing the body comprehensible.The Renaissance anatomy theater represents a knowledge practice in the transitionbetween the medieval period and the emergence of modern science. Public anatomies –relatively common in the principal academic centers of Western Europe – were odd publicrituals and involved music and luxurious decoration in addition to the spectacle of thedissected body (Klestinec, 2004; Sawday, 1995; Wilson, 1987). This spectacle was surroundedby complex symbology, which included everything from permanent theaters built inaccordance with Vitruvian proportions to placement of the guests based on their socialposition. The public anatomies were thus a way to disseminate knowledge to medicalscholars and, simultaneously, dramatic spectacles in which the symbolic order of the world,centered on the human body, was staged (Thacker, 1999).Currently, however, the production of knowledge is primarily focused on the validationof code and in modeling the biological processes in which one seeks to intervene. On theother hand, the construction of digital visualizations seeks to produce virtual replicas of the structures being observed, replacing direct analysis of live material with manipulationof digital objects. This manipulation is seen as direct access to the truths of the body thatwould be inaccessible through other means, which is made possible by the increasinglysophisticated modeling of biological processes. There is therefore a rupture with theimperative of direct observation of the body and subordinate visualizations.The effect is a sort of ‘return to the text,’ somewhat analogous to the principle thatgoverned the first public anatomies in the thirteenth century. In them, the center of thespectacle was less the body than the cathedra, where the professor was socially and culturallythe focal point of the scene. Revealing the knowledge contained in the classic works (suchas those of Galenus) was the principle goal, with the body used as an empirical example –less relevant than the classical knowledge transmitted by the professor. The directobservation of the body became central to the empirical methods of understandingdeveloped during the Renaissance and consolidated in works such as Novum organum , byFrancis Bacon (2000), whereas today we see the importance placed in codes and modelsthat aspire to be faithful representations of natural truth.  644 História, Ciências, Saúde – Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro Marko Monteiro In modeling practices such as that analyzed here, validation of a mathematical codethat seeks to describe the complex biological process of interest in computational terms isat issue. This validation of the code is part of a larger objective, that of controlling andmodulating the observed processes in accordance with the interests of the physicians andengineers involved. In short, the researchers seek to “bring medicine and engineeringcloser,” in the words of Doctor Lewis 1 , the scientist heading the project analyzedethnographically in the study presented here. The production of knowledge about thebody is based on manipulation of a series of visualizations (magnetic resonance imagesand 3D models based on them), in the context of collaborative, interdisciplinary discussion. The field: formulating computational models of the human body The ethnographic research underlying this study took place between November 2006and March 2008. The objective of the project developed by the group studied here was tomodel heat transfer in prostrate tissues in order to develop a new type of surgery includinglaser ablation of tumors. It made broad use of visual representations in two, three andfour dimensions, and the production and discussion of visual objects was a central part of the activities observed.The team of scientists is located at one of the principal public universities in theSouthwest of the United States. The group works with data collected at a research hospitallocated in another city 258km away and processes this information with the help of theuniversity’s supercomputers. The team includes professors, post-doctorate researchers andgraduate students. Their areas of specialization include computer science, civil and biomedicalengineering, applied mathematics, computational mechanics, scientific visualization andmedicine. The scientists come from various countries, including India, China, Iran, theCzech Republic, Poland, France and the United States. Most of them have aninterdisciplinary academic background, to some extent, with research careers that includea variety of areas and interests.The group’s scientific objective is to produce a computer system providing correctpredictions of the damage to tissues caused by heat and provide this information in realtime to physicians performing surgeries to remove tumors from the prostrate. For scientists,this technology represents a new paradigm in minimally invasive heat therapies with laserablation. Thus, the new treatment is seen as a way to reduce costs, surgery time andpatient trauma. The principal objective is to use thermal magnetic resonance images toallow the surgeon to have greater control during laser surgery through data feedbackbetween his clinic and the supercomputers. Cell symptoms (death or heat apoptosis) wouldbe used to calculate the future effects of surgery in real time in order to allow the physicianto adjust the procedure for each patient, increasing efficiency and reducing any collateraleffects.The ethnographic study included observation while participating in the scientists’ weeklywork meetings, interviews with all group participants and observations made at theirfacilities. Thirty-two meetings were observed and the recordings were analyzed. All of thescientists were interviewed at least once. Participant observation was also employed during  v.18, n.3, July-Sept. 2011 645  The digital anatomy theater two talks and at an international conference in which the group participated. I attendeda one-week workshop at the supercomputing facilities used by the group and made twotrips to the research hospital. Visualizing the body scientifically, medically and culturally I do not intend to discuss the history of the cultural visibility of the body here, as thetopic has been sufficiently explored by other authors (Van Dijk, 2005). However, it isimportant to stress the particularity of this type of visibility in Western culture, applicableto both Renaissance prosections and contemporary digital means.First and foremost, I wish to highlight the era when what is commonly known as theMiddle Ages transitioned to the Renaissance, when visual representations of the bodybecame more realistic, based on direct observation (Kemp, Wallace, 2000). This visualculture emerged simultaneously in art and science, with the appreciation of classic Greekand Roman art and a linear perspective as realistic ways to represent the world. In that era,realism in representation was strongly associated with ‘mathematicization’ at a time inwhich mathematics was seen as a universal language and the ultimate measure of objectivity(Alfonso-Goldfarb, 2001; Cassirer, 2000; Chene, 2001; Donatelli, 2000). It is in this contextthat we must perceive the evolution of the meanings attributed to public anatomiesthroughout the Renaissance. Additionally, it is interesting to note how mathematicization,which has become the basis for scientific description around the world, has become evenmore important in a science based on computational models.The question of corporeal visualization, already highly debated in the internationalliterature, is increasingly popular among Brazilian researchers. For example, the philosopherFrancisco Ortega (2006) analyzes the historical development of visualization technologiesin the context of the increasing importance of vision over the other senses in diagnosisand understanding of the body. He believes that visualization technologies are broadlyappealing beyond their success in medicine, interfering in more general cultural perceptionsof corporality (Ortega, 2005b, 2006). The author also argues that medical visualizationtechnologies reduce the body to a dematerialized dimension, thus losing its unity withthe organic whole and becoming “a set of fragments without substance or materiality”(Ortega, 2005a, p.246; free translation). He believes that the replacement of the body withits image will result in its disappearance, and sees in the history of anatomy – includingpost-modern theories – an over-appreciation of the fragment to the detriment of thevisceral nature of the body (Ortega, 2005a, 2006, 2008).According to the anthropologist Lilian Chazan (2003), the visual culture and currentvisualization technologies contribute to reconfiguring both the body and the person. Theauthor asserts that the current visual culture of the body is partly responsible for itssubjectivation, increasing vigilance over the body through technology and helping createa ‘fusion’ between body and machine (Chazan, 2003). This fluidity between thetechnological and corporeal is also, according to the author, part of a process throughwhich technology both helps reduce social tensions (for example through analysis of fetus images) and at the same time creates others that, in turn, are only seen as mitigable
Search
Tags
Related Search
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks
SAVE OUR EARTH

We need your sign to support Project to invent "SMART AND CONTROLLABLE REFLECTIVE BALLOONS" to cover the Sun and Save Our Earth.

More details...

Sign Now!

We are very appreciated for your Prompt Action!

x