Visualising Knowledge

31 October 2008, 09:30 - 17:30


Please click on the link on the right hand side of the page to book and pay online.  The standard fee is £15 and the reduced fee is £7.50. 


Mary Jacobus (Director, CRASSH)

Introduction by John Bender (English & Comparative Literature, Stanford University)
Michael Marrinan (Art History, Stanford University)

Visualisation plays a crucial part in conveying and constructing knowledge across disciplines and in different media.  Our modern image-driven culture and today's new technologies make it possible to communicate knowledge in increasingly varied and sophisticated ways. But the so-called visual turn in the organisation of knowledge is challenged by the work of John Bender and Michael Marrinan, who argue in The Culture of Diagram (Stanford UP, 2008) that today's visuality has historical precedents. This colloquium explores some of the ways in which past and present visual modes of knowledge cross the humanities and the sciences as well as intersecting with aesthetics.

Confirmed speakers include:

Sher Doruff (Amsterdam School for the Arts)
Howard Caygill (Goldsmith's College)
Christine Guth (Royal College of Art)
Sandra Kemp (RCA)
Roberta McGrath (Napier University)
Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)
Alan Short (University of Cambridge)
David Spiegelhalter (University of Cambridge) 

Respondent: Peter de Bolla (University of Cambridge)

There will be a lecture by Professor John Bender and Professor Michael Marrinan at 5pm on Thursday 30 October at CRASSH in connection with this colloquium.  There is no need to register for a place.  All welcome to attend.



For administrative enquiries contact

Visualising Knowledge


Location : CRASSH     Date : FRIDAY 31 OCTOBER

Friday 31 October


9.00 -9.30



John Bender (English & Comparative Literature, Stanford University) and Michael Marrinan (Art History, Stanford University)


Session 1
Chair: Jonathan Lamb (Vanderbilt University)

Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)

How Disciplines Look: Vision and Image in Educational Reform
The paper examines a genealogy of some salient disciplinary projects in the Age of Reform. Ambiguities of the sense of vision, both as gaze and appearance, were explored and exploited by a number of pedagogical reformers in theperiod after 1790.  These ambiguities can usefuly be traced through the iconography and the politics of reformist schemes, and can reveal surprising resources in play in the making of  images of knowledge in that key period. 

Christine Guth (Royal College of Art)

Hokusai's Geometry: Translating Visual Knowledge across Cultural Borders
On Hokusai's translation of the visual knowledge conveyed in a 17th century Dutch artist's manual - a case study that raises broader questions about the many ways in which visual knowledge is mediated in the process of translation across time and space.



Tea/coffeee break

11.30 - 13.00 

Session 2
Chair: Alan Blackwell (University of Cambridge) 

Alan Short (University of Cambridge)

Visualising the Weather inside Buildings
The UCL School of Slavonic and East  European Studies, known as SSEES, is  the first passive downdraught cooled building in the world.  The environment in the building, the 'weather' inside it, was difficult to imagine during the design process.  As a result we started to visualise space and volume in a quite different way. Sophisticated digital models revealed wholly unexpected behaviours.  This interdisciplinary research won the RIBA President's Research Award for 2007.

David Spiegelhalter (University of Cambridge) and Mike Pearson (Millennium Mathematics Project, University of Cambridge)

Grasping Time's Arrow: The Controlled Visualisation of Temporal Change 
raditional graphs of sequences of observations provide a static narrative in which an entire history is revealed retrospectively and simultaneously.  In contrast, modern dynamic visualisations using sliders and morphing allow the observer to watch a history unfold and then to play with time - changing its speed, reversing it, letting it rest.  We shall examine these approaches using work by ourselves and others.







Session 3
Chair: Peter de Bolla (University of Cambridge) 

Roberta McGrath (Napier University)

Visual History Read Backwards
In recent years disciplines across the social sciences have reshaped, if not challenged, the manner in which the visual arts are studied. Given the  transdiciplinary dialogue surrounding the status of the 'visual' and 'visuality' is it possible to utilise methodological approaches inherent in creative practice to redirect the epistemologicasl axis so that visual practice is brought into a productive dialogue with theory and history rather than the other way round? I will argue that the concept and research practice of transdisciplinarity has a kinship with modernist montage and with the quintessentially modern visual technologies of photography and film.

Howard Caygill (Goldsmith's College)

The Aerial View
A look at the practices and fantasies of the view from above in the 17th and 18th centuries.



Tea/coffee break


Session 4
Chair: Mary Jacobus (University of Cambridge) 

Sandra Kemp (RCA)

A Unified Knowledge? Art, Science and Technologies of Visualisation
This paper is about the relations and border crossings between the arts and the sciences in the formulation of knowledge and understanding in and through the visual (with particular reference to new technologies like rapid prototyping and digital imagery). 

Sher Doruff (Amsterdam School for the Arts/University of East London)

Diagrammatic Praxis: Hacking the Relation
This paper will address the relational dimensions of Deleuze's  'diagramme de Foucault', generating a speculative re-marking of  knowledge-power-subject cartography through techniques of  contemporary LiveArts and hacktivist practice.



Peter de Bolla (University of Cambridge)