[-empyre-] On the limits of critique (d'Ignazio) and the limits of representation (Barad)

Lauren Klein lauren.klein at lmc.gatech.edu
Wed Jul 6 01:54:05 AEST 2016

I, too, am chiming into this discussion late—

In response to Catherine, Aviva challenges the view of visualized representation as “primarily a semiotic system,” and writes:
> I am interested in the space between of what the body knows that we ignore, and what the mind knows, that doesn’t seem to require the body. I would be curious to know where others might be locating the negotiation of that complicated space.

To me, this points to the most challenging aspects of articulating a theory and practice of feminist data visualization: the desire to insist upon the centrality of the body, and of matter more generally, at the same time that we must acknowledge certain physiological aspects of perception. As it has been theorized— insofar as it has been theorized at all— visualization so strongly prioritizes the latter, that any feminist intervention must necessarily emphasize the former. I don’t think it’s “falling into the trap” that Haraway warns about, as much as it is a forceful insistence that bodies, and the social and material contexts of bodies, matter too. 

Also, hello! 

By way of belated introduction, I will say a bit about my background and visualization work—

My training is as a literary scholar, with a focus on the writing of the early United States (ca. 1790-1830). I became interested in visualization when I attempted to employ some digital tools to visualize my archival data, and was struck by the confluence between concerns about “archival silences,” or gaps in the archival record, and similar discussions in the critical visualization community about the limits of the visual representation. Since then, I’ve begun work on a project about the history of data visualization, with a particular focus on examples that challenge our preconceptions about what visualization can and should do. One of these is the work of Elizabeth Peabody, which you can read about (and see examples of) here: 
I’m interested in how her conception of visualization is one that prioritizes interpretation, and is designed to facilitate multiple interactions between producers and perceivers of knowledge. Also worth noting is that her designs were enormous, and the intended mode of interaction was truly embodied: viewers stood around a rug-sized image, discussing the patterns that they saw. This feature has prompted me and my lab group to begin to rematerialize the “mural charts,” as she called them, using individually addressable LEDs and conductive fabric. (You can read about our progress on our lab blog here: http://dhlab.lmc.gatech.edu/blog/). I’m hoping these artifacts, simultaneously historically situated, tactile, and embodied, will prompt further conversation about the uses and limits of visualization. 

Very much looking forward to this conversation. 


Lauren F. Klein, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0165
lauren.klein at lmc.gatech.edu

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