Visual culture (n). The habituated aspects of culture expressed in visual images.
The Knowledge Integration Project studies how objects and events are visually produced, consumed, and represented—particularly as changing technologies allow new ways of seeing things (think microbes).
In the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), retaining the term culture helps remind us of the political stakes of visual practices— especially in science—where approaching the process of making knowledge from an embodied perspective helps us take responsibility for our claims of truth (Haraway,1998).
Following Latour’s (1999) ethnography of Amazonian soil science, our research team will use visual methods to follow scientists from the field to the lab and back again, as they try to make sense of tiny objects in the forest—microbes—that influence and are impacted by broader-scale environmental and social dynamics.
Habituated Practices: A system of embodied habits, skills, and dispositions that emerge from life experience and help organize how an individual perceives the world. Pierre Bourdieu (1987) referred to them as an implicit “feel for the game.”
Scalar Habits: The normative practices and dispositions that influence how people visualize, understand, and manage the world. A scalar habit is learned, not innate.
Imaginaries: Collectively held and performed visions of desirable futures. A focus on imaginaries helps explain why some versions of scientific knowledge and social order are privileged at the expense of others.
Visual methods generate important data about scientists’ habituated practices, such as how they:
- Collect and organize information
- Build and test models
- Manage unruly instruments
- Teach skills
- Negotiate disciplinary and cultural backgrounds
- Extract meaning
- Translate results across lines of epistemic or cultural difference
Our research team will conduct a Visual Q-Method survey with participants to better understand their scalar preferences and imaginaries of Amazonian futures.
Q-Method is a technique used by social scientists to study people’s preferences and subjectivity—that is, their embedded viewpoints.
The method has gained momentum in STS and environmental science in recent years as a creative way to explore contrasting perspectives on issues such as wildlife migration (Robbins, 2006), land-use change (Lansing, 2013), flood risk (Donaldson et al, 2013), and public understanding of climate change (O’Neill et al, 2013; O’Neill and Smith, 2014).