Sound and Vision

Edward Jones-Imhotep


Over the last two decades, Science Studies has produced a fascinating body of literature on visual representation. A crucial part of that literature has explored the materiality of visual representation, primarily the “rendering practices” that make visual representations possible and embody epistemic virtues attached to the scientific self. This essay explores the practices and capacities that support visual representation, but it looks to a seemingly unlikely place for inspiration—the growing literature on the uses of sound in science. My interest here is to see how that literature points us to a view of sound as an epistemic resource that supports the visual. If there is a visual emphasis in modern science, it is made possible by a set of material practices that are only partly visual. As such, this essay suggests how the history of visual representations in science might be bound up with a history of scientific aurality.

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