Disciplinary images: domain-specific use of visual media

Visual culture is en vogue: many projects taking as their vantage point the observation that visual media serve not only the dissemination and visualisation, but also the creation and transformation of knowledge, are currently concerned with the knowledge-enhancing role of the visual. It is, however, also an insight in disciplines concerned with visual media that this transdisciplinary field of study cannot build on a homogeneous theoretical foundation. The conference under the title “Disciplinary images: domain-specific use of visual media” which is planned for March 29. - 31. 2007 at the TU Darmstadt aims to turn this dilemma into a chance.

This chance arises from the changing view of the field of images and visual culture: The focus of the papers and discussions is not on the possibilities for a common methodological framework, but on questions concerning the use of visual media in different domains. Instead of a quest for a unified theory and terminology, the theme of the conference suggests a comparative investigation of different domain-specific visual discourses and practices. These discourses and practices will be discussed in the context of exemplary case studies and basic reflection in order to shed light on questions of the status and evidence as well as the rhetorical and historical impact of visual media that become tangible in a disciplinary context.

The central questions this conference is concerned with can be subdivided as follows:


A. Domain cultural and domain-specific questions:

How do historians deal with visual sources such as paintings and films? Why did Velazquez’ Las Meninas turn into a fetish of cultural theory? What impact does the combination of text and image have on the reception of documents in engineering textbooks? What are sociologists talking about when they are investigating ‘images’, for example of cities? What is the function of iconic portraits of authors in literary history? How does linguistics conceptualise the interaction of natural language and visual modalities in multimodal documents? How do techniques for the dissemination of digital data change and develop through increasing amounts of digital data? How does the altered availability of visual data influence the production and reception of visual and multimodal documents?


B. Theory and reflection:

Which concepts for the analysis of the scientific use of visual modalities lend themselves to interdisciplinary studies? What kinds of implicit knowledge and subconscious judgements as part of our cultural background shape the domain-specific use and perception of visual media? In how far do technical advances in the production and manipulation of pictures change our view of visual media within and between domain cultures? What role do visual modalities play in the presentation and representation of knowledge? Does a prospering “Power-Point-culture” in the sciences require a type of expertise in the handling of visual media that exceeds domain-cultural boundaries? How does the encoding of knowledge in visual media affect this knowledge?



Conference format:

The format of the conference is intended so as to use the context of Darmstadt University of Technology to its advan-tage. It can thus build on a number of already existing inter-disciplinary co-operations. Besides invitations to three plenary speakers from different fields, we are explicitly extending the call for contributions to speakers with an interest in visual media from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.

The conference starts on Thursday, 29. March in the late afternoon and finishes on Saturday, 31. March at lunch time so that all participants have a chance to conveniently travel home on the same day.


Expression of interest:

Colleagues interested in contributing to the conference with a paper are hereby invited to express their interest in the form of an abstract within the thematic scope sketched above.

Abstracts should be between 300 and 500 words in length and comprise the name(s) of the author(s), affiliation, address, e-mail address and web address. Templates specifying the form of the abstract and a possible paper may be downloaded from the following web page:


A subsequent publication of papers and results from the conference is planned. Details will be announced as the conference date approaches.



Deadline for abstracts: October 05. 2006

Notification of acceptance: October 31. 2006

Submissions should be sent by e-mail to the following mail address: bildwissen2007@linglit.tu-darmstadt.de



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