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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Visualization and Cognition: Drawing things Together

Author: Latour Bruno

About author:
Professor, Director, Médialab, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), 27 rue Saint-Guillaume, Paris, Cedex 07 75337, France.

In this paper, ANT comes into fruitful exchange with visual culture studies. What were the reasons for the rapid success of science in the modern era? Some may argue that the main transformation occurred in the economic structure, with the rise of bourgeois capitalism. Others refer to the birth of organized skepticism and development of the scientific method, to the emergence of humanism and individualistic ideology. However, according to the author, these are not the actual causes. The new forms of inscription and knowledge transmission are conditions for the progress of modern science. The linear perspective discovery allowed for the portrayal of objects with optical consistency: regardless of the viewpoint and distance to the object, it can be always depicted from any other angle and without any loss of external qualities. The distant point method revolutionized Dutch painting: now a few simple “camera obscura” tricks transform massive 3D constructions into 2D images on a flat surface. Finally, the printing press invention led to the global distribution of copies, almost identical to the original text, map, or etching. Thanks to these innovations, scientists of 16th and 17th centuries acquired immense power — they learned to act at a distance.

Keywords: actor-network theory; visual culture; the problem of representation; action at a distance

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