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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 13, Issue 3, Fall 2009

Tore Birkeland, Roger Strand
Pages 182-189

How to Understand Nano Images

Nanoscale objects are presented by ever more sophisticated pictures (nano images). There is a need to reflect on the status of such nano images, because the “seeing” involved is of a highly indirect kind. The aim of this paper is to complement existing philosophical critique of nano images with a scientific practitioner's perspective. First, we show some reasons to consider seeing and imaging as complex endeavours not only on the micro and nano scale, but also on the macro level. Secondly, we argue that practising scientists are not only accustomed to interpret pictures and other graphical presentations of data as being partial and simplified, but that simplification is deliberate and internal. Rather than requiring that “true” images have to be representational (Pitt 2004, Pitt 2005), the paper advocates for the fruitfulness of understanding and judging images by the amount and nature of the information they convey. Scientific literacy could be improved by creative development of visualization techniques, but also by improved public understanding of images and their correct and cautious interpretation.

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