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I work between visual culture, science studies, cinema and the medical humanities.
My main research strand focuses on the aesthetic, epistemological and societal implications of scientific photography and visualization, particularly in the case of emerging technologies. I deploy visual culture, science and technology studies (STS) and critical theory to explore how (still and moving) images and perception work within systems of knowledge. In my scholarly and curatorial work to date, I am committed to study art-science cross-fertilization projects in their material environments (museums, laboratories, cities), to assess how they reconfigure existing forms of visibility, thinking and agency.
I published two research monographs: Giving Bodies back to Data (MIT Press, 2021) and Il Ritratto Scansione ("The Scan-portrait", Mimesis, 2016).
My other research interests and publication outputs concern, chiefly, the following areas:
- A visually-informed critical approach to the field of practice of the medical humanities
- The role of science film festivals in enriching the public culture of science
- The use of Giorgio Agamben's philosophy to tackle the question of status of still and moving images: how do objects (e.g., images) come to acquire the power and authority they have? How can another object/subject/event disrupt this authority?
During my Leverhulme Trust fellowship grant, I have completed my second book entitled "Giving Bodies back to Data. Image-makers, Bricolage and Reinvention in Magnetic Resonance Technology" (MIT Press, 2021). The book uses a variety of critical approaches (visual culture, STS, historical epistemology, media studies) to examine the bodily, situated aspects of data-visualization work in biomedicine, looking at visualization practices around the development of MRI technology. The book is within the Leonardo Book Series of MIT Press.
My next project engages, broadly speaking, with science film festivals and intermediality. By looking at the configurations between venues, audiences, expertise and discourses, I analyse the form and role played by science film festivals across history in contributing to the public culture of science, and in shaping the dialogue between science and old/new media technologies/representational techniques (from the magic lantern show to virtual reality) inside and outside the laboratory.
Recent Conference Papers and Presentations
Talk 'Imaging versus Anticipating the Patient's Body in MRI's early Development' Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research congress, Durham University, April 2021.
Invited guest speaker within the seminar Nuclear Aesthetics in Gediminas Urbona' Studio Seminar in Art & the Public Sphere, MIT, March 2021.
Invited plenary speaker at the conference Transactions: Imaging/Art/Science - Image Quality, Content and Aesthetics, Westminster University, April 2019
The conference was organised by the Computational Vision and Imaging Technologies Research Group (School of Computer Science) and the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) (Westminster School of Arts) of the University of Westminster, the Rochester Institute of Technology, USA, in collaboration with the IET’s Vision and Imaging Network and the Imaging Science Group of the Royal Photographic Society.
Invited keynote speaker at the symposium Present Futures, Design, Media and the Arts, Lafayette College, USA, May 2019
Invited speaker at the research workshop The Epistemic Functions of Vision inScience, University of Bergamo and Max Planck Institute Berlin, Italy, October 2018
‘Visualising Biodata in MRI (re)invention”, Pastis Seminars, University of Padua, Italy, January 2018
‘Visualising Data In-between Science and Art: Biomedical imaging practices in MRI innovation, past and present”, presentation at the Art Science Conference. 50 Years of Leonardo, Bologna, Italy, June 2017
'Life Beyond Control: Cinematographic Experiments between Beauty and Chance', Science in Culture, St Andrews University, March 2017
Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement
2019: Curator of the exhibition "From Where Do We See?", The Small Gallery, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (http://www.ghat-art.org.uk/from-where-do-we-see-curated-dr-silvia-casini/
Retrospective narratives of biomedical innovation tend to omit the role played by aesthetics and craft skills, framing them as peripheral to science and privileging theory creation over practical making.
This exhibition presents a selection of previously unknown archival sources related to the Aberdonian development of Mark-1, the world’s first whole-body MRI clinical scanner and material from the team leading the IDentIFY project. The aim is to explore how methods and theories from the arts and humanities, usually considered peripheral to science, feed into past and present MRI innovation networks. The archival material exhibited in The Small Gallery, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary introduces visitors to some of the humanities aspects of medical imaging.
2014: Consultant for A.M. Qattan Foundation (London and Ramallah). Seminar series on art-science cross-fertilization and initial fieldwork with stakeholders for the creation of a science centre in Ramallah, Palestine.
2012-2013: Scientific coordinator of Arscientia (Venice, Italy) (www.arscientia.eu)
I am currently working together with the organising committee of the Creativity&Cognition Conference which will be located in Venice, Italy on the Isola San Servolo in June 2022. Since 1993, this conference series brings together artists, scientists, designers, educators, and researchers to more deeply understand how people engage individually and socially in creative processes and how computation and other technology can affect creative outcomes.
I am also part of the ongoing research and exhibition project "KNOW THYSELF AS A VIRTUAL REALITY", coordinated by Marilène Oliver, University of Alberta, Canada.
I have collaborated with several academic and non academic institutions in and outside the UK such as the biomedical physics department at the University of Aberdeen, The Suttie Arts Space, IUAV University.
I have supervised or am currently supervising the following doctoral students:
Eimear Kinsella (first supervisor)
Camilla Salvaneschi (co-supervisor, completed)
Brian Keeley (co-supervisor)
Lee Hentze (second supervisor)
Research Funding and Grants
Leverhulme Research Fellowship, PI, June 2019 - May 2020, (£ 54.652), project "From where do we see? Centre-Periphery in Biomedical Visualisation"
Kias Cluster Application, co-PI, June 2020-2023, project "KNOW THYSELF AS A VIRTUAL REALITY", participation in the symposium and writing up the contextual essay for the project exhibition and the web platform. PI: Marilène Oliver, University of Alberta, Canada.
Aberdeen Humanities Fund Development Trust Research Awards, PI, 2019 (£1,952)
Brain Gain Fellowship at IUAV University (FSE Grant), 2019, (Euros: 12,000)
European Cooperation in Science and Technology grant (£1,200), Network on NMR relaxometry, short scientific mission at University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (Poland) to conduct fieldwork interviews.
Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant, PI, 2017, (£6,692) project "Visualising Data: A study of biomedical imaging practices in Scottish MRI innovation, past and present"
Scottish Crucible grant, co-PI, 2016, (£4,000), project "Harvesting Collections for Social and Scientific Benefit: Hidden Stories at the Herbarium of RBGE" in collaboration with Glasgow University and RBGE
National Science Foundation grant, CNS-ASU, 2013
Grant to attend the Winter School on Anticipatory Governance of Emerging Technologies, Phoenix, USA
Italian Society for the Study of Science and Technology, 2011
Travelling and Accommodation grant to attend the PCST Conference, Florence, Italy
Summer School in Medicine and New Media, 2008
Travelling and accommodation grant, Centre for the History of Medicine, Warwick, UK
European Science Foundation, 2006
Travelling and accommodation grant for the conference Reading Images, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Wassennar, The Netherlands
Research Grant Queen’s University, Belfast, 2006
Research grant for a 3-month-stay at the University of California, San Diego, Department of Communication, USA
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), 2004
Scholarship to undertake research at doctoral level, UK