THE ART & SCIENCE OF LOOKING
THE ART & SCIENCE OF LOOKING An art/science research project exploring how we look at, see and interpret microscopic worlds, from the diverse perspectives of six disciplines across the University of Westminster. PHOTOGRAPHIC ART • IMAGING SCIENCE • ILLUSTRATION LIFE SCIENCE • PSYCHOLOGY • COMPUTER SCIENCE
Edited by Heather Barnett and John R A Smith
ISBN: 978-0-9550951-5-3 Copyright © Broad Vision, The University of Westminster 2011. All rights reserved. broad-vision.info westminster.ac.uk
Cover image: © Chiara Ceolin chiaraceolin.com
EYE > BRAIN > HAND MICROSCOPE > CAMERA > SCREEN LOOKING > SEEING > INTERPRETING
Preface Welcome to Broad Vision...
A team of undergraduate students and academic staff from six disciplines at the University of Westminster have been investigating questions of vision and perception through a year-long research project designed to explore how we look at, see and interpret microscopic worlds. Broad Vision brings together researchers from the diverse disciplines of Photographic Art, Imaging Science, Illustration, Computer Science, Psychology and Life Science. Microscopy and other imaging technologies have been used to explore themes of scale and abstraction, seeing and analysing, science and art. Students with open eyes and open minds have been taking the laboratory into the studio and the studio into the laboratory, stepping
out of their comfort zones and into unknown territories of other disciplinary processes and modes of thinking. By engaging with different â€“ but related â€“ disciplines students have had opportunities to see through the eyes of others and have developed methods of sharing, developing and communicating their subject-specific knowledge in novel and exciting ways. This book documents the process of the project: from trading skills and disciplinary perspectives initially, through the creative conversations and points of connection which emerged, to collaborative working and the negotiation of interdisciplinary research and practice. The team of staff and student researchers have explored the subjects of vision and perception
at the microscopic level in myriad ways and invite you, within the pages of this book, to follow their journey through the diverse interactions, experiments and observations. The products of the creative encounters culminated in a multi-platform exhibition of research material, artefacts, experiments and artworks. The Broad Vision Exhibition, London Gallery West, University of Westminster, UK, 3-15 May 2011 For information about other events and project developments please visit broad-vision.info Heather Barnett and John R A Smith
BROAD VISION The Researchers Photographic Art
Heather Barnett (Staff) Anand Damodaran Joshua Dinsmore Natalia Janula Debbie Sears Imaging Science
Dr Mark J P Kerrigan (Staff) Ramon de Assis Figueiredo Abigail Doe Sami Jora Hannah-SiĂ˘n McGuinness Anjelee Tamara Sharma
Heather Barnett Educational Researcher
Dr Silke Lange, Director of Learning and Teaching, School of Media, Arts and Design
John R A Smith (Staff) Sara Farajallah Moacir Lopes Katie Rayner Simon Vitanza
With additional input during Phase One of the project from: Dr Aleka Psarrou, Dept of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Frantzeska Kolyda (Staff) Zainab Asuni Ursula Brandes Oleg Kurbatov Lukasz Pieczatka
Student researchers: Richard Adams, Dahae Choi, Irina-Ildiko Csapo, Maria Cueva, Harry Dalkins, Stephane Gowrea, Neta Harduf, Uma Hirani, Tom Howes, Haider Hussein, Bita Jalali, Andrzej Strzalkowski, Kevin Wong.
Christine McCauley (Staff) Barbara Brown-Villedieu Mellissa Fisher Nina JĂ¸rgensen Fiona Marchbank Suzie Patrick Jinesh Revagar Ailish Sullivan
Dr Mark Gardner (Staff) Maeve McMahon Theo Wheale
Acknowledgements Broad Vision is funded by Westminster Exchange Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching Fund and supported by the Schools of Media, Arts and Design; Life Sciences; Electronics and Computer Science; and Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages. Special thanks to all at Westminster Exchange, especially Dr Barry Stierer, Dr Dalene McShane, Prof Lesley-Jane EalesReynolds, Joanne Jenner and Luke Smith; the School of Life Sciences, Professor Jane Lewis, Dr Bob Scott, Jenny MacKenzie, Suhel Miah, Dinesh Shah, Glen Wotherspoon and all laboratory technical staff; the School of Electronics and
Computer Science, Dr Aleka Psarrou, Dr Daphne Economou, Dimitris Parapadakis, Dr Thierry Delaitre and his team; the School of Media, Arts and Design, Sally Feldman, Andy Golding, Dave Freeman, Jae Park, Dr Silke Lange, Terri Page, Diana Rynn, Elisa Rouse; and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, Professor Hazel Dewart. Special thanks also to Aviva Leeman and Michael Maziere at London Gallery West; Simon Walker and the University of Greenwich; Dr Paul Hibbard and Louise Oâ€™Hare at the University of St Andrews; and The Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford, for the generous use of their entire
archive of Victorian and Edwardian microscope slides. The Broad Vision book is edited by Heather Barnett and John R A Smith with contributions from the Broad Vision team. Broad Vision photography by Chiara Ceolin, unless otherwise stated. Chiara Ceolin is an independent documentary photographer who graduated from the Photojournalism MA course at the University of Westminster in 2010. Broad Vision book design and art direction by Chiara Ceolin, with Heather Barnett, Natalia Janula and Julia Nickerson.
Salons Imaging Science
PHASE TWO: Interdisciplinary research
PHASE ONE: Disciplinary exchange
On growth and form
Intro Project intro
Anatomy of the eye
Gallery residency and exhibition
Areas of interest
The art of microscopy
PHASE THREE: Audiences
BROAD VISION Introduction
Broad Vision is an interdisciplinary learning and teaching project exploring vision and perception in relation to microscopy and technological intervention. The project is funded by the University’s Interdisciplinary Pedagogic Learning and Teaching Fund. Key areas of exploration include the mechanics of vision, understanding visual information, perception and the complexities of interpretation, and the influence of imaging technologies in enabling us to see beyond our natural limits of vision. The project examines how a discerning eye and visual acuity are pertinent to subject-specific development; it explores how seeing through the eyes of others in the context of one’s own subject-specific development can broaden one’s understanding, appreciation and engagement of related subject areas. The core of the project is the observation and interpretation of subjects at the microscopic level, aiming to encourage studentcentred approaches to learning and teaching through consultation, collaboration and the sharing of skills within and across disciplines. With these themes the project allows for subject specialism to be developed within a framework of open and shared learning. Microscopy was chosen for its ability to allow us to visualise subjects otherwise invisible owing to their scale, and because of the inherent sense of abstraction
associated with both the resultant images and the microscopic subjects themselves. The six disciplines were chosen because of the diverse ways in which they are involved in the processes of looking, seeing and interpreting. For example: psychology students might be interested in the human cognitive processes associated with vision and perception; imaging science students in the optical instruments or the derivation of data from images; while illustration students may be concerned with the interpretation of abstract forms. Taking microscopy as a central form of ’looking and seeing’, the questions raised across different disciplines are plentiful: what do we see, how are we able to see it, what do we understand about what we are looking at, and so on. The questions differ depending on each subject specialism and the approach to the medium, but much is gained from sharing expertise across disciplines. The undergraduate student researchers are at the centre of all project development, involved in forming the content and direction of research and assisting in the delivery of workshops and in-class activities. Through interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration we aim to break down subject silos and remove the blinkers of subject knowledge; to develop collegiality, a sense of professionalism and recognition of subject-specific expertise.
Aspirations of student and staff researchers at the start of the project
“How objects viewed down a microscope can be interpreted differently. What’s the best way to record what you see down the microscope, depending on your discipline?“
“Reconsidering photomicrography as a unique genre which oscillates between science and art in quite a fluid way and indicates what an important function nature has in the development of art.“
“To work with other disciplines that perhaps know less about art, or visual representation, to create something epic. Also to learn about other disciplines and to meet new people I wouldn’t normally interact with.“
“My ambitions are to create interesting images and learn more about how scientists view the world and the differences in how we interpret images.“
“Discovering the limitations of each of the area’s method of enquiry into the world around us. The blindspots we each miss through our specialisation.“ “To combine arts and science/technology and make some pretty pictures :)“ “The development of strategies that enhance both the student and staff experience of delivering microscopy within the HE sector.“
“To expand my knowledge of the natural world in an academic manner through systematics, and to become familiar with the science which enables us to understand it.“ “Lots of creative conversations about little things, leading to lots of cross-discipline learning.“ “I would like to learn more about the mechanics behind small insects such as flies, ladybirds... Why do we see the way we see? Was the brain created with vision of its own?“
“I am interested in enlivening lectures with examples, demonstrations, and illustrative material. Ambitions – to participate in a truly interdisciplinary collaboration.“ “A fascination in the way the minds of others work and a desire to learn new things.“ “To investigate how perception may be influenced by academic knowledge and/or life experience.“ “To gain new research methods and teamwork experiences which will be beneficial to my future studies.“ “I am interested in understanding the ways in which our brains are optimised to make sense of the visual information available in typical everyday life.“ “To learn how research is carried out and to potentially gain new interests. To actively contribute to discussions of what could be investigated.“
“To see the amalgamation of science and art in an unconventional way.“ “Showing the invisible and interpreting it from different perspectives is very exciting.“ “I wouldn’t mind teaching students different things for them to gain new skills. My ambition for this project is to increase my skills by gaining extra ones from the project.“ “Interested in creating an interesting exhibition to teach things to people in a new and fascinating way and to make them see things they thought they’d considered fully in a new light.“ “I have great hopes for Broad Vision and its capacity to change ideas about student learning in higher education.“
PHASE ONE Disciplinary Exchange 6
Before we could ask student researchers to engage in meaningful collaborations across disciplinary divides they needed to gain some understanding of each other’s field of study. They needed to learn how the subjects of vision, perception and scale were pertinent to each discipline and to begin to appreciate the range of approaches, methodologies, languages and mindsets within groups and individuals. Working closely with their subject-specific staff researcher, students devised a short activity that could be shared with all the Broad Vision team. Over two afternoons in autumn 2010 the six groups introduced their subjects to each other through workshops, tests, demonstrations and practical tasks. In the microscopy laboratory Psychology conducted a vision test with everyone exploring whether particular disciplines were better at specific tasks; Life Science led a blood grouping exercise inducting everyone into the use of the
microscopes and observing biological reactions; and Imaging Science invited us to examine various devices and materials with surprising results. On another day in the illustration studio on a different campus, Photographic Art invited people to interpret a range of images and take photographs in response to a shared brief; Computer Science ran a workshop in image construction; and Illustration took us through a group drawing exercise resulting in some fabulous abstract art. These activities, while giving insights to disciplinary concerns to the novice apprentices, enabled students to recognise their own growing subject-specific expertise. By stepping back and asking themselves how they approach the subject of vision – how they see, how they use imaging technologies and how they interpret visual information – they could begin to appreciate that they have a particular set of specialist skills and that they could share these skills with others.
SESSION ONE Microscopy Lab The first group session took place in a microscopy laboratory at Cavendish Campus. For the vast majority of students it was the first time they had worked in such an environment, so it fell to the Life Science team to make everyone feel at home and ensure all safety procedures were followed.
PSYCHOLOGY Vision test
A total of 35 members of the Broad Vision community, drawn from five subject areas and including staff and student researchers, participated in two psychological tests of visual function. One test, the Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT), is a standardised test of oneâ€™s ability to find a hidden figure from within a distracting context, and is considered to measure whether an individual has a disposition to focus on detail or the big picture (analytic vs wholistic cognitive
styles). The second test measured each individualâ€™s susceptibility to the Muller-Lyer illusion, a classic distortion of size perception. Both our tests provided evidence consistent with discipline differences in the processes of vision. The GEFT showed that participants from Imaging Science, Illustration and Photographic Art showed an advantage in flexibly selecting visual forms from distracting fields, perhaps as a consequence of interdiscipline differences in experiences of working
with two-dimensional visual media. Participants from Illustration and Photographic Art were found to be more susceptible to the Muller-Lyer illusion than their peers from science disciplines. This might be explained by pictorial cues to depth having a differential influence on size judgement that is dependant upon discipline differences in the need to represent the three-dimensional world in two dimensions.
Blood grouping exercise The aim of this session was to introduce the Broad Vision team members to microscopy. We chose blood grouping, as it was a good topic to underpin the practical element of the session. Using pre-screened human blood, participants had to complete a blood typing experiment whereby 18
they mixed each of the four human blood types (A, B, AB, O) with both anti-A and anti-B serum. If a reaction takes place, one sees â€™lumpsâ€™ forming in the mixed sample as the antibodies within the serum cause the red blood cells to clump together. This is the theory behind using the correct blood group during hospital
procedures, as lumps (or clots) that form in a patient could prove fatal. Having visualised this at the macroscale, participants then repeated one part of the experiment using microscopy. Using a x40 objective it was possible for people to see this reaction at the cellular level.
The microscopy workshop
The first session that was carried out focused on the concept of blood grouping. The Life Science group including myself were asked to organise and carry out this session. I attempted to explain the process and the importance of blood grouping in a clear manner. I used visualisations and guided the team through the process by talking them through the tasks and gave them the opportunity to be actively involved in the experiment. During the blood grouping test I was presented with the challenge of receiving unexpected results, which made providing a scientific explanation more difficult. As a result, I had to consolidate with the handout prepared before the session, and explain what the results should have been. Before the laboratory session I had never carried out a blood grouping test so it was also a learning experience for me. The feedback received from the session was positive. People from a creative field described how the patterns produced by the agglutination of the red blood cells reminded them of thick wallpaper paste, having a
gravel-like texture and appearing grainy. Additionally, the colours produced by the blood grouping test were referred to as being like paint. On the other hand, a psychologist told me how they had read about a research project relating to blood groups before the session. Overall, the experience was of great value to me, as teaching requires one to be confident with one’s specific subject area, and to enable others to understand one’s instructions clearly. An artist’s interpretation of objects within science seems to use everyday associations, possibly enabling them to relate more effectively with the foreign area of science. Additionally, during a different session, one individual told me how the microscope slides all appeared the same as the same dye was used to stain them, possibly indicating the value of colour and texture within the creative discipline. Hannah-Siân McGuinness
Human and Medical Science BSc (Hons), Year 1
Colour reproduction, image resolution
In their first year at university the Imaging Science students had studied many aspects of human and artificial imaging systems including optics, trichromatic colour theory, the resolution of detail and the structure of photographic materials. A couple of brainstorming sessions led to the development of two activities that fully utilised the microscope to educate and entertain the other groups. But in the event the Imaging Science group was pleasantly surprised how much they educated and entertained themselves. The first activity was one of investigating colour reproduction and detail resolution. Participants were asked to describe the range of colours and appearance of edges
on their mobile phone screens. They were then instructed to look at the same screens under the microscope and describe the appearance of the same things. Some were surprised, some were not surprised, to see that the many colours and smooth edges visible without the microscope reduced to solid blocks of red, green and blue at high magnifications. Participants were then presented with sections of A4-sized images of what they had been looking at â€“ solid blocks of red, green and blue â€“ printed onto a transparent inkjet medium and asked to describe the colours they could see. Easy: red, green, blue. They were then instructed to view the transparencies under the microscope and describe
the colours they could see. Everyone was surprised, not just by the rainbow of colours but by the beauty of the interactions of the inks and the textured surface on which they lay. The second activity was a game to seek out microscopic reproductions of the faces of the Imaging Science group, hidden in one of two images: an anatomical specimen and an aerial photograph of the West End. On one level it was an exercise in facial recognition. On another level it raised concepts of scale and surveillance; they were looking down the microscope at a satellite image of the very building in which they were working.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
If someone told me a few years ago that I would be teaching artists, photographers, psychologists and computer scientists how to perform blood grouping experiments I would not have believed them. Yet, on an autumn Wednesday afternoon that is what we did – we opened our doors to interdisciplinary research and I am rather glad we did. Teaching laboratories are always a great place to be, full of ideas and curious minds, yet I have never experienced the excitement of 30 (well-supervised) ’novices’ being asked to put on a labcoat and a pair of latex gloves for the first time. I was struck at how one’s discipline transcends one’s physical environment; everyone looked the same but approached their tasks so differently. The session was designed to introduce everyone to the scientific method and the use of microscopes. I chose blood grouping, as it was something that everyone has heard of and gives some visually exciting results. So, did the experiments work? Of course! Everyone obtained the results that they were supposed to, yet this was not the aim of the session; we wanted something far more... Did we get people talking about microscopy? Yes. Did we get students working with each other who, under usual circumstances, would never have met? Yes.
Did we, as scientists, experience through others’ eyes what it was like to be in a laboratory? Yes. Yes. Yes! It is easy to get cloistered in one’s own discipline and ’stepping out’ of that comfort zone has had to be one of the best things I have done (professionally) for years. Working with people who are not afraid of asking ’dumb’ questions, experiencing what we, as scientists, take for granted and seeing how people adapt to a new environment has been a significant pedagogical wake-up. I find myself bursting with new ideas on how to improve the teaching and learning for our students, ideas for transition and retention as well as wanting to engage with more interdisciplinary projects. So, the next time someone asks you to do something that feels a bit weird, not in your comfort zone and a bit different, give it a go! Who knows, you may end up wearing a bin-bag drawing on a wall in an art studio with a bunch of fantastic people all wanting to share ideas and learn from each other! Dr Mark J P Kerrigan
Senior Lecturer Teaching and Learning, Physiology and Anatomy
SESSION TWO Illustration Studio The second round of taster sessions took place in the Illustration studios at Harrow Campus. Instead of donning white coats and following the strict protocols of the laboratory, people were invited to cover up with a bin liner apron and get messy.
Description and interpretation
The Illustration group had a long discussion about the nature of the discipline and its role as interpreter, problem solver and describer, as well as the importance of the individual illustrator’s interpretive voice and visual language. In devising an activity to introduce the discipline we thought that the main problem, for those not used to drawing and making images, would be inhibitions about getting
something to look ’right’. To get around this we decided to describe a microscope slide verbally rather than visually. We selected, photographed and printed three microscope slides that we thought had a lot of visual potential and scripted a description for each. We put up five 1x3 metre lengths of paper each, with a table of colourful and easy to use paints, pastels and markers.
The participants were divided into five groups and the describer read out the descriptions colour by colour and shape by shape. After the first image description we rotated the groups onto the next piece of paper, read out the second description then rotated the groups again and read out the third. At the end we showed everyone the images they had been drawing. The results were quite lovely.
Description by Christine McCauley
This microscope slide image is split into distinct sides vertically. On the right: Is a woven net of bright red vertical and horizontal lines, they create irregular white rectangles between. Some lines are closer together and some of the horizontal ones have pink between forming a gingham effect. On the left: Are irregular red blobs, some singular and isolated and some in clusters, they have a small black â€™eyeâ€™. The blobs are surrounded by a blue-black network that looks like knitting.
Description by Nina JĂ¸rgensen
Description by Jinesh Revagar
This slide is split into two semi circles diagonally. There are red horizontal lines going slightly upwards. In between these lines there are lighter red circles that are webbed together like a net. In between the circles, bigger yellow oval circles that look like eggs appear at random. A couple of these oval circles are pink. Inside some of the yellow egg shaped ovals there is a small blue dot. Following the trail of where the red lines end, there is a concentration of really small dark red and reddish brown circles that are thinly grouped together like a small river.
In the centre there is a bright golden yellow sun shape. There are lots of randomly placed grain shapes around it, about the same size, touching each other and going in different directions. The grains have a dark brown outline and a soft golden orange inside. Inside the grains there are many tiny brown bubbles. The ones further from the sun have more bubbles than the ones that are closer. The spaces between the grains are mostly white but at the top and on the left the spaces are yellow.
Photographic Art Subjective interpretations
The team from the Photographic Art BA (Hons) course wanted their taster session to explore issues of subjectivity inherent in the interpretation of images, particularly ones which are abstract or beyond immediate recognition, as is the case with most micrographs. They devised two activities: one designed to generate a multitude of individual interpretations from a series of abstract photographic images; the other to give the other groups a common photographic brief to produce a number of images, but with different camera equipment ranging from a wide-angle lens to a high-powered microscope.
Activity a) Interpretations
Eight photographs were shown to the whole group, each for a ten-second duration. For four of the images people were asked to write down an immediate response of what they thought the images ’looked like’. For the remaining four, people were asked to engage their other senses in their interpretations and were asked to state what they thought the image would ’sound, taste, smell or feel like’. The words were collated and input into a word cloud generator.
Activity b) Photography brief
Each group was asked to photograph a leaf, a banknote and part of the body. They were given different types of imaging technology with which to capture their images. Digital SLR cameras were given to three groups with different lenses (a wide-angle lens, a standard lens and a macro lens), while two groups were given a low or high-powered microscope with a camera attached. Their images varied greatly, each group employing different creative strategies depending on which piece of equipment they had been given.
HIGH-POWERED MICROSCOPE BODY PART
Building a DNA structure from scratch
The Computer Science group consisted of students from the Computer Studies BSc (Hons), Interactive Product Design BSc (Hons), Multimedia and Animation BSc (Hons), and Multimedia Computing BSc (Hons) courses. The group chose to be the facilitators/teachers for the other groups for the day, demonstrating how to use software tools such
as Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to create an image of DNA structure. Having managed to overcome several obstacles such as lab and software availability at Harrow Campus, the session turned out to be very engaging with a number of interesting DNA interpretations from the different groups. Those who had never used such tools before had
the opportunity to explore and use their creative skills and for a change be able to â€œlook, see and interpretâ€œ DNA without a microscope. Those students with previous experience in Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop extended their knowledge as many had used these tools in a different context (eg Photoshop for image editing, colour correction etc). 51
PHASE TWO Interdisciplinary research 60
It was clear from the immediate feedback from Phase One taster sessions, as well as from the later evaluation, that students had enjoyed stepping out of their comfort zones and trying different disciplines for a short while. It was also widely recognised that students had gained confidence in their own subject areas through sharing their knowledge and facilitating practical activities. It was now time to mix things up a bit, to establish smaller research groups based upon shared interests and diversity of discipline. As with all interdisciplinary working it was vital to invest a significant period of time at the outset to open up the possibilities – to think divergently – and to establish shared goals between collaborators. The early weeks of Phase Two consisted of a number of organised sessions where creative conversations were engineered, information was shared and further skills exchanged, with a great deal of online conversation to continue the dialogue in between face-toface contact time. Research groups evolved from these activities and discussions, each comprising of student researchers from several discipline areas. The emergent themes
included: the art of microscopy (interested in the diversity of interpretation); eye tracking and aesthetics (interested in how images are ’read’ by the eye); anatomy of the eye (wanting to communicate the internal structures and mechanisms of our visual organ); growth and form (wanting to make illustrations and animations of cell behaviour); and a staff-led project examining viewers’ aesthetic appreciation of images (extending the collaboration to academics outside of the University). Project proposals were drawn up by each group to help focus ideas – to identify areas of interest, pose key questions and devise proposed research activities. Projects were essentially self-directed (with support from staff researchers), with plenty of freedom permitted to follow false leads, make mistakes, and allow for the unexpected to occur. It is often the unknown insights and the largely unquantifiable aims that make interdisciplinary working such rich territory where innovation, creativity and novel ideas can evolve. There were a great many unanticipated benefits gained throughout the lifetime of the project.
Creative conversations face to face From the 40 student researchers involved in Phase One, 27 continued their involvement into the second phase, where interdisciplinary projects were to be developed. In late January 2011 the researchers gathered for a session of creative conversations and were introduced to some possible models for interdisciplinary working. The student researchers at this stage had little or no experience of working with people from other disciplines, and no knowledge of how a project might unfold between people with such differing outlooks and ambitions. Students were encouraged to follow their
natural interests and work to their strengths, but to keep a mind open to diverse inputs and to allow for unforeseen directions to emerge from the interactions with others. We used studentsâ€™ statements of interest as starting points for creative conversations, an academic speeddating exercise of sorts, whereby people moved from one conversation to another, group dynamics shifting each time. The aim was to open up ideas and identify points of connection and possible directions forward. Many exciting propositions came out of this session. 65
Creative conversations online Random excerpts from online conversations:
The logistics of the Broad Vision collaborative projects were significant. The research team comprised 30-odd staff and student members, working in six different disciplines, located across three University campuses, ten courses, three year groups – all on different timetables and all with an already heavy workload. In order to support the burgeoning collaborations an online network was set up on the Ning platform Website as graphs: online applet at aharef.info/static/htmlgraph
(broadvision.ning.com). The Ning site became a vital portal for all project information and communication; it became a sketchbook, a discussion board, a diary, a signpost, a gallery, an instant archive and a social matron. Without it the project would have been virtually impossible to co-ordinate.
A never-before-seen. Just lurking to start with. This is an amazing story. This is a series of paintings / photographs I did that are bigger than the human body. Oh my god, all these slides are stunning. Splendid illustration. May nick it for my teaching. If I get the room right, and don’t get lost on the way to Cavendish ;). Impressive video! Scale is such a powerful phenomena. OK, find a butcher and procure some eyes. Does anyone find that they can spot mistakes more clearly when something is on paper, compared with seeing something on a computer screen? Art is for ’humans’. A quick question to the mortician tells me animal eyes are easy to come by. Creating dinners under the microscope! Roast dinner @ x1,000 magnification! Is “filling in the gaps“ more important with a microscope than with a naked eye? I’m getting a range of animal, vegetable and mineral for our delight and scrutiny.
Is the world down the microscope literally another world? Art and emotions, and the concept of beauty. Spoken to the abattoir and we are getting 20 fresh sheep eyes. Curious about how vision differs across different disciplines? Give me tips or show me some artistic techniques. I must admit I never got on with watercolour pencils! It is important to keep the collaborative element strong. Yayyyy, can’t wait to get started on this. I cheated a bit, by tracing them from the computer, art requires a lot of patience. Are you guys collaborating? What we see, interpret and understand tricking the eye. Concentrate on the process and don’t get blinkered by the final product. It would be extremely interesting to work with someone outside of my discipline. Many thanks to all those who very kindly took part in the image statistics experiment earlier. The eye dissection idea sounds fun, let’s do this guys!!! Incorporating an artistic and abstract view, along with the science behind the slides. What the project is about and what it means to me.
To anyone with any form of academic experience, the first thing that strikes you is the ambition of this project. To take such diverse departments and expect them to be able to communicate seems like a pretty tall order. The choice of topics was crucial, in a sense microscopy was no one’s home territory, so there was a breakdown of absolute authority. This, coupled with a respect for others’ specific knowledge, is the origin of the collective act and should be the centre of any creative project (including engineering and scientific discovery as well as artistic endeavours). Enter the role of the catalyst. Ever present, it allows reactions to take place. For Broad Vision, this took the form of the Ning platform, an online social network/ blog/ discussion forum which provided virtual space for group interaction and collaborative project work. Whether at 2am on a Sunday morning or 9am on a Monday morning, broadvision.ning.com sat there responsive to our comments, and most importantly it allowed others to interact with these comments. Central to the collective creative act is articulation of ideas: statements, thoughts, and questions. When using other ways of thinking, collaborating with other people, and particularly when working with other disciplines, the timescale of each working process must be taken into account. Some ideas appear almost instantly while others mature slowly over time; some working methodologies require strict and rigorous research while others require semi-unpredictable creative flashes; some methodologies seem to require specific types of time (Hannah, a life scientist, once noted
that she has “to be in a particular mood to paint“). The availability of the participants, at times and paces that suited them, provided a flexibility which improved the quality of communication. This was critical to the crossing of disciplines, in that Ning allowed for different modes of cognitive processing. For example, the analysis of any particular statement may require a different amount of time for factual or phenomenological investigation, not necessarily something which a ’real-life meeting’ style of conversation can allow. The technology is societal. It adjusts not only to the availability of the participants but is also an agent in the types of thoughts expressed. In a project like this, the Ning site provided a Foucaultian possibility of archaeological investigation, an archive of forgotten narratives and historical possibilities/ multiplicities. Ning will allow contemporary and retrospective analysis of the evolutionarily-developed processes, allowing for the possibility of tracing successful routes through the thorn bushes. The site has become an instant archive of conversations and interactions, or in other terms it forms a (semi)natural data set necessary to unravel a formula which actively models the success of this sort of chaotic collaborative project. The online network has provided us not only with the possibility of working together today, but also allows us to improve the way we work together in the future. Joshua Dinsmore
Photographic Arts BA (Hons), Year 3
Salons optional extras
To help maintain momentum and increase interactions and conversations, we arranged two optional sessions intended as informal opportunities to exchange ideas and discuss early project proposals. The content of the ’Salon’ sessions was programmed entirely in response to the desires and interests of the students, a generative curriculum delivering requested content. Many of the research team were interested in finding out more about the psychology of vision and how our brains perceive visual information. Mark Gardner (Broad Vision’s specialist psychology staff researcher) responded with a dedicated one-hour lecture, focused on material pertinent to the Broad Vision themes of perception of scale, abstraction and understanding of depth. During this Salon the Computer Science group delivered a practical workshop in Autodesk 3D Studio Max, something they had prepared for their Phase One
taster session but hadn’t been able to deliver. They led the group through two activities involving constructing 3D models of blood cells and brain cells. Once again, the Computer Science students became the facilitators, teaching others how to use an industry-standard 3D modelling tool. It was clear towards the end of the session that the participants were starting to experiment with Autodesk 3D Studio Max in various ways depending on their background and own discipline. The second Salon took place back in the microscopy lab, but this time with no formal structure, allowing for informal conversations to take place while looking down the microscope at a variety of human tissue samples. The Life Science students took charge again by setting up the microscopes and ensuring that everyone was able to use them appropriately and safely.
Teaching and learning
So there I was, in one of Mark Gardner’s lectures, thinking: “I wasn’t expecting this, to be sitting among the students in a psychology lecture; a different course in a different school on a different campus. Am I a lecturer or am I a student?“ A couple of months earlier I had been sitting at a computer in the Illustration studios in Harrow as the Computer Science students delivered a computer graphics workshop in Adobe Illustrator. I was sharing the computer with an Imaging Science student – we were working together to produce an illustration of a DNA double-helix. And a fortnight before that my Imaging Science students were mixing with the whole of the Broad Vision group, informally explaining what the group was looking at down the microscopes, all under the supervision of the Life Science students. I was a tutor at certain times that afternoon but the atmosphere was more one of collaborative investigation than didactic instruction. Within a couple of months of Broad Vision I had been a lecturer, I had learnt with students from my own course, I had seen my students teach, I had been taught by students from other courses and I had been taught by one of their lecturers. Each experience had been both educational and fun. During Phase One, groups from all the various disciplines had put a lot of thought and effort into making their own group’s activity relevant to the other disciplines. Both students and staff found that they generally knew a little bit about the others but commonly they, or we, had “never really thought about it like that“.
While putting the project proposal together Heather and I had sought interest from disciplines we knew would have interest in the looking-seeing-interpreting theme. From the outset one of my aspirations for Broad Vision had been for students to mix with students from other courses, to discuss their subjects and to hopefully realise that, after a year and a half at university, they had actually learnt quite a lot. When it came to the Phase One activities somehow I was thinking that while each group would pass on some knowledge to the others, the knowledge each group would receive in return was going to be less relevant to their subjects. I was imagining a round of show-and-tell. In practice virtually everything I witnessed was remarkable in its relevance to what I had thought of as my own specialised subject: Imaging Science. And relevant to what ought to be another of my specialised subjects: teaching! The overlaps had been larger than I had initially considered, for both staff and students. I’m glad that the Imaging Science students can converse with authority with the Life Science students over the anatomy of the eye, or with the Psychology students about visual perception. And I might just nick Mark Gardner’s spinning spiral illusion to see if my own students gasp as my head appears to swell, visually rather than metaphorically. John R A Smith
Senior Lecturer in Imaging Science
An uncommon education paradigm
One afternoon in early February, I went to the microscopy laboratory at Cavendish Campus, home to the School of Life Sciences. The Broad Vision team had invited me to participate in the project as an educational researcher to provide an outsider’s perspective on pedagogical aspects of the collaborative enquiry. Having followed the development of the project from the beginning through conversations with some members of the team, I was certainly interested in having a closer look at the interactions between students and staff researchers within this rather uncommon educational paradigm outside of our modular structure. On arrival in the laboratory, students from Life Science were setting up microscopes to be used during the afternoon. The session had no formal structure; its focus was for participants to look at different tissue samples under the microscope and to share their impressions and findings with each other. As students and tutors settled in to what seemed a friendly and relaxed learning environment, the level of excitement about what was revealed by looking through the microscope increased noticeably: “wow“s, “ah“s and “oh“s filled the air of the laboratory. The laboratory had been transformed into a space in which collaborative working methods, based on common interest, curiosity and dialogue, could be explored and new discussions and ways of working were engendered by experiencing one’s own discipline through working with others. As pointed out by one of the student researchers: “I get lots of questions from the
different disciplines, things I have never thought about, like colours and stuff.“ The interdisciplinary approach to working in this project could be described as a progressive way of learning for open-minded students wanting to share and develop knowledge and practice. But this project is not only about the learning of the students; lecturers too are learners on this project – involved in seeking new ideas, being reflective, trying out new practices and working with each other. There were moments during the afternoon when students and tutors were standing side by side behind a microscope, trying to figure out its functions, or admiring the specimen placed under the lens. As for me, I had been admiring the actions, as well as interactions in the lab: the looking, questioning, capturing, discussing, interpreting, and sharing – all mediated through a microscope. On my way home, I thought about the many conversations I’d had throughout the afternoon, moments of interactions I saw and dialogues between participants I overheard. I was excited and wanted to share my observations, moreover, I wanted to find out how educational institutions can support progressive approaches to learning such as I had seen this afternoon. Dr Silke Lange
Director of Learning and Teaching, School of Media, Arts and Design
RESEARCH PROJECTS Introduction In mid-February, having spent a month developing ideas through informal sessions and online chat, students were asked to commit to a project research area and groups were formed. The subsequent six weeks were spent on smaller group activities: some groups met regularly to exchange ideas and plan joint sessions; some worked independently and sought information and feedback from others online; some worked in pairs.
The following pages document the working processes, the experiments and some of the outcomes from these collaborative interdisciplinary research endeavours. The final exhibition outcomes are available online through the project website, broad-vision.info
The art of microscopy
Looking, interpreting, describing, capturing, transforming
Photographic Art Photographic Art Photographic Art 78
Imaging Science Illustration
Photographic Art Illustration
Mapping the body Barbara Brown-Villedieu
This project explores my interests in visual communication in the form of a map of the human body. The aim of this project is to â€™untangleâ€™ the inner workings of the body and consider ways of depicting its complex network of organ systems to make it easier to understand how they connect and work together. As well as working to create something that is informative and accurate I aim to combine this with my practice as an illustrator to produce something that is primarily visually appealing. Using photographs of microscope slides the idea is to recreate the lifesize dimensions of different organs in all their beautiful microscopic detail.
I recently switched from a science course onto a Photographic Arts course and I wanted to use some of that scientific knowledge I had, using some of the interesting concepts from that world to plant and grow something in the arts environment I was in now. I wanted to combine these two interests to create a hybrid, a balanced project of these two opposites. Or maybe it would turn into a beast of its own, a Frankenstein's monster. The physics community tells us that light can behave in two very different ways: as a physical particle that travels along a path; or in a waveform, a force of energy, not an individual particle but a force that moves through a canvas, like ripples along the surface of water, or sound waves travelling through air. Two
strangely contradictory theories, for a founding scientific theory. But I guess this is a common occurrence in science; some of the most fundamental questions in science are still constantly being debated. I also started exploring this split personality idea, delving into psychology, looking into the relationship between the conscious and subconscious. Looking at Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. I think the style of my illustrations came from images of neurons. I was interested in the way they connect to each other, forming these beautiful, complex connections which somehow end up as our thoughts and memories, a network for our conscious and subconscious. This is what was going through my head when creating these images.
Massive Zoomable Micrographs Joshua Dinsmore
This project aimed to recreate the experience of looking down a microscope. This involved capturing many images from the same slide and combining them altogether into a massive image (usually several hundred megapixels). It would be virtually impossible to print all of this detail so instead a digital platform was chosen. With this platform the viewer can zoom in and navigate the slide. This piece of software is normally used for presenting maps. It is this act of exploration which so successfully recreates the experience of navigating the microscope slide. slides.joshdinsmore.com
The Sensation of Diverse Magnitude Natalia Janula
For me making art is a complex process. It is something which grows as apposed to appearing suddenly. The first point of entry was the fragment of an unseen world. The micrographs seem abstract, but I was struck by how abstract our ordinary world can look. Our unmediated perception of an object can be as abstract as the micrograph of it. It is often difficult to recognise scale. There is a sense in which scale is always in relation to the observer. The bacteria living on the spring onion have a different view from that which we have when eating it. This perspective shift was also found within the Broad Vision collaborations. Having discussions and trying to work with
other disciplines and individualsâ€™ perspectives made me revaluate my own. Whether to shore up my foothold or change my position these fresh perspectives were always useful to me as an artist. Experimenting with the micrographs, which are beyond our instinctual understanding of scale, and with the actual objects, leads us to connect these two worlds â€“ the sort of connection which can only happen through playful interaction. Knowing these two levels are connected is a feeling which is beyond scientific explanation. I hope to add to the project a sensual explanation; beyond all else I wish to add an element of playfulness.
A Microscopic Forest Nina Jørgensen
Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if we had microscopes for eyes? I hadn’t until forming part of the Broad Vision project. Looking at microscope slides of ordinary things I discovered some of the most beautiful and detailed images I have ever seen. Brilliant blues in a fragment of moss, light brown seed-looking particles in pollen, electric yellows and oranges in a bee’s head. I gave in to my curiosity and took a train to London’s closest forest – Epping Forest – armed with a camera and some picnic friends. The photographs taken there would form the basis of my project. I wondered
how a mono-coloured landscape such as a forest – made up of mostly green and brown – would look like as a microscopic world. Using found images of slides containing the different plants identified in my photograph as reference, I drew and recreated the scene using my drawings to make a collage. The result is an artistic response to something that is normally considered a ’scientific field’ (working with microscopes) and perhaps a break from our serious lives to imagine something, which could never be physically possible, but nevertheless still fun and stimulating.
A blurry image appears in the microscope, settings changed, focusing down and then, the shutter is pressed. In a fraction of a second the camera delivers an image rich in colours and shapes. Broad Vision has pushed me to find new inspiration and excitement for my photographic career. Photographing through the microscope has increased my passion for finding the perfect image.
Monsters of Microscopy Fiona Marchbank
For someone who lacks the scientific knowledge a microscope slide is simply an abstract pattern of colours and shapes. It is natural for people to want to associate abstract patterns with things that they know, such as faces and landscapes. For this project I worked with slides of animal parts, and turned them into new creatures, the monsters of microscopy.
The Giant Microscope Slide Hannah-SiĂ˘n McGuinness Suzie Patrick
We created a large microscope slide using an image we both liked from the archive of micrographs from the Museum of the History of Science, which we then divided into two to work on separately. We decided not to share too much with each other about the production of the image as we did not want to influence one another, so that we could see independently what similarities and differences existed between an artistâ€™s perception and that of a scientist. As a scientist, when drawing the image I came across obstacles such as scaling up to larger proportions. While drawing the image my initial motivation and enthusiasm dwindled as I lost patience due to the time and detail required. In overcoming problems I used the Ning site to contact artists who provided me with advice and support. At first I thought that the art piece would be fairly achievable but I was reminded that art is a process with complications
that require resolutions, technique, time and perseverance. I have also tried to identify the source of the original slide, to find out what it is. From my investigations the most likely candidate is pulmonary oedema. [Hannah-SiĂ˘n McGuinness] When I first joined the microscopy project I was most interested in the idea of perception and how people respond to visuals; if the influences in our life such as our studies would change the way we interpreted an image. Hannah and I chose to collaborate together, creating our own personal response to a single microscope slide that neither of us knew anything about. I used a screen-printing technique that I am familiar with, where different inks are laid onto the screen very freely, but the stencil still confines the print. I think it is a successful representation of how I see the microscope slides, as things of ambiguous beauty as opposed to intricate detail and fascination. [Suzie Patrick]
Amphibian Beauty Debbie Sears
The natural world is full of intrigue and fascination, invariably taken for granted, as it goes beyond the human eye to see the intricate and beautiful detail. Fox Talbot was one of the first, using a solar microscope to photograph various wildlife, producing delicate imagery in abstract form. Inspired by Fox Talbot, I pay homage by photographing in sunlight macro images illustrating close-up detail of a frog and toad.
Buttercups and Bones Ailish Sullivan
My interest in science has continued into my studies in illustration and has been dominant in most of my work. I strive to combine my two personal passions, watercolour and science. Collaborating with students of different disciplines who share the same interests has helped me to achieve more in-depth and interesting work. Some of the most rewarding moments were in the conversations and discussions, sharing our very
different ways of interpreting the interest we all share. My artistic and visual language as an illustrator has grown through exploring and experimenting alongside this project and I hope to continue. I am interested in pursuing my interest in science and art through my professional career and look forward to working again with people who enjoy science as much as I have.
Mosquito Simon Vitanza
My project was based on insects such as mosquitoes and moths purely because I had already obtained them easily on holiday in Sicily, so I used the opportunity of Broad Vision to see them up close. While photographing the samples I decided to give stereo photography (3D) a go because I was interested to see if a large amount of depth could be created with such small subjects.
On Growth and Form
Time-based animation, modelling, illustration Mellissa Fisher Oleg Kurbatov Lukasz Pieczatka
This section shows a 2D Adobe Flash animation showing two different cellular activities. The sections we decided to study for the animation were an intestine cell and a plant cell. We chose these cells in particular, as they were the most visually stimulating. The intestine cell we studied is known as the columnar, and the plant cell we focused on was from a Hydrilla plant. For the final animation, instead of choosing another microscope slide to research, we decided to construct a time-lapse documentation to simplify with drawings and on Adobe Flash. The time lapse consisted of a photograph taken every five minutes for four
days, which showed mould growing from strawberry jam. The design of the animation was a group exercise drawing knowledge from an Illustration student and two Computer Science students. With the former concentrating on drawings and design layout, Computer Science students then used these to create the set of animations. As is often the case these days most communication between the two parties took place online; faceto-face time was limited. Although this restricted dialogue, it allowed each individual to show their unique style, finally coming together to arrive at a successful solution.
Perspective Changed outlook
When I first joined the research team at Broad Vision I wasn’t very confident. I entered the group with an interest in science, but without great knowledge. However, after the first group session looking through microscopes, something I hadn’t done for years, I saw how beautiful science really is. My science education up to this point had been limited. I like to explore every discipline and really push the boundaries of illustration and I can now add something else to my repertoire. I did feel like a novice at the beginning but it gave me a thirst to learn more. I began to do research in my own time and grab every opportunity that came my way. The enthusiasm of the tutors really pushed me to perform and the ability to contact and show them my work was reassuring; a big part of that was the Broad Vision website. The website documented each session, and previous material was simple to access via the site. It also allowed me to communicate easily with other students outside the campus. Broad Vision has changed my outlook on my own discipline; my style of work has developed through
animation and three-dimensional work. It has given me the inspiration to really push the boundaries of illustration beyond what is considered the norm. I have worked with a brilliant group of people who are all extremely talented in so many different ways. When I met everyone at the first main group meeting I observed how naive we all were to each other’s disciplines, but as the group sessions progressed the understanding of each discipline became clearer and extremely interesting. I plan to continue to incorporate microscopy in my work as I progress to my third year of study, as I feel science is so beautiful and should be experimented with in the art world. Animation is an area I have yet to explore in detail, so I now intend to develop animations that show movement in different cellular structures. Mellissa Fisher
Illustration BA (Hons), Year 2
Areas of Aesthetic Interest
An eye tracking experiment exploring the accuracy of predictions of areas of visual interest within photographs Abigail Doe, Life Science Natalia Janula, Photographic Art Maeve McMahon, Psychology Theo Wheale, Psychology
The purpose of this project was to bring together scientific experimentation and analysis with artistic interpretation and presentation. The eye tracker offered a great opportunity to try to bring the two together and present something that was visually interesting while also holding scientific ground. The eye tracker attracted the attention from a number of different disciplines â€“ Psychology, Life Science and Photographic Art â€“ and this collaboration led to the idea of analysing the way in which people, from two separate and yet similar
fields, view images and what they consider important and eye catching. The project was interesting to carry out as it involved running the testing procedure in a controlled environment, giving people on other courses a feel for how psychologists work with participants on studies. The latter part of the project required much input from the artistic members. We discussed how to present complex experimental results in a visual form that was aesthetically appealing and unambiguous without being too demanding on the viewer. The collaboration between
the different disciplines was very interesting, with everyone adding suggestions and views that plainly originated from what they had learnt within their subject areas. This showed how differently everyone thought about the issue of image appreciation and how best to test it. Additional credits: With photographic contributions from Anand Damodaran, Joshua Dinsmore and Natalia Janula; micrographs from the collection of the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford; and some well-known published photographs borrowed for the experiment. Predictions of Areas of Interest made by Heather Barnett (Photographic Art) and John R A Smith (Imaging Science).
Eye tracking machines have come a long way from their original invasive incarnations, with lenses pushed up against the eye. Now they look just like computer screens, and participants wouldn’t even know that they were having their eyes tracked except for two reasons: consent and calibration. Roughly 18 participants came through our eye tracking tests, and we needed to get proper ethical consent for all of them. Each filled out a form that demonstrated that they knew their eye movements would be tracked, that this data would be used for scientific exploration of an artistic idea, and that their results would be anonymous. They also had to move their chairs up and down, left and right, push fringes out of their eyes,
and otherwise make sure that they were properly aligned with the eye tracker. Deception would have been difficult under these circumstances! But we did try to distract them from being too conscious of having their eyes tracked by asking them to think about whether or not they liked the images. After viewing all the images, we asked participants what they thought about our images and recorded their responses, another part of the exhibition side of the project. Though the original purpose of our experiment was to test whether imaging science or composition best predicted where gaze would actually fall, we were able to get some real personal insights into what viewing these images was like.
We sourced our participants in several ways. Most of them were office workers at the 101 Cavendish building, many of whom were more than happy to take a 15-minute break during a Friday afternoon! Others were students we were able to convince from the Cavendish Campus. We tried to only use data from “naive“ viewers, or those who didn’t have formal training in biology. We used quite a few micrographs in our image selection and worried that biologists would focus on scientifically intriguing areas of these images rather than areas that were more artistically appealing.
Gaze plot of an individual participant
Predicted areas of interest
Collective ‘heatmap‘ showing where gaze fell
Statistical analysis of results
The purpose of running statistics was not only to determine whether John or Heather had ’won’ each image by accurately predicting the most dominant area of interest, but also to determine if these winnings were significant. Roughly speaking, in statistics, testing for significance enables one to know if the results gained occurred merely by chance or not. A significant result is one in which there is only a five per cent or lower possibility that it happened by chance. We found that participants looked at the area of interest (AOI) that Heather had selected for longer times than John’s predictions in ten out of the 18 images. John’s AOIs only held more gaze for eight of the 18 images. Of these 18 images only six had any significance and within these four were in favour of Heather and only two were in favour of John. It seems then that Heather outshone John in the end!
Perspective The beauty within
The journey of Broad Vision has been an exciting one, from the application process to the planning of the exhibition. Broad Vision has aided my understanding of multidisciplinary work. For example, in Phase One of the project, I got a taste of the different disciplines: Art, Imaging Science and Psychology, to name a few. At the Life Science session, I had to demonstrate the importance of blood grouping in regards to blood transfusion to computer scientists. I found this task challenging because I had to simplify my teaching of blood grouping in order to aid the understanding of people with little background knowledge about blood. The difficulty was in trying to explain terms that were different but sounded similar. For example, the computer scientists were having trouble trying to differentiate anti-A from Antigen A, and who could blame them as they only had about an hour to understand the concept and do the practical. A computer scientist told me that blood agglutination looked like “book-covering paper“, which didn’t surprise me because I had the same visual interpretation myself! In Phase Two, while working with psychologists, I learned that what seemed to me to be a simple experiment regarding the gaze of the eye across an image wasn’t so simple after all. Complex statistical analyses needed to be made in order to find if the
data collected was significant. During the process of group formation prior to Phase Two, I went through a stage of idea formation; I had an idea of testing which parts of the eye are linked with different emotions, but a psychologist told me that the idea was too complex and couldn’t be tested on the eye tracker. After losing this idea, I joined the eye tracker group to look at the question: “Where on an image will the gaze of novice eyes fall as predicted by the gaze of an expert imaging scientist and an expert in photographic art?“ I decided to join this group because I wanted to be able to look at the movement of the eye across an image and I also enjoyed the element of competition between two experts from different disciplines. I enjoyed the collaboration with members of my group during the image selection process and when obtaining participants for the experiment. Overall, during the progression of the project I have grown to master using the microscope – an increased exposure to micrographs and collaborating with people with artistic backgrounds has allowed me to look at micrographs in an artistic way and to see the beauty within. Abigail Doe
Human and Medical Science BSc (Hons), Year 1
My aspirations at the start of the Broad Vision project were fairly limited. I had hoped that engagement with other disciplines would provide an interesting experience, and that my students and I might learn some new skills along the way. I did not anticipate the wide range of useful insights generated by working with the staff and student members of the Broad Vision team. For me, insights included the pedagogic potential of more loosely defined tasks than I was accustomed to setting, the value of documentation for reflective practice as exemplified by sketch book culture, and the usefulness of online social networking for supporting collaborations. Immediately after the ’creative conversations’ session at the start of Phase Two, I blogged the following: “Broad Vision is opening up to me possibilities for different ways of working… it is demonstrating to me the potential for social networking as a tool to support asynchronous communication across geographically distributed teams. I must think of applications of this technology for my own work.“ Little did I know how soon I would be able to exploit social networking in this way, or that Broad Vision would provide the unexpected opportunity to contribute to research at the cutting edge of vision science. It all started with a conversation about Broad Vision at the surprise party to commemorate a landmark birthday of
a vision scientist friend. I had been struggling to discover ways in which microscopy was relevant to the psychology of visual perception. Paul Hibbard introduced me to a scientific theory of aesthetics that related to scale, and the image statistics project was born. Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the research literature, Paul and I developed by email research questions that we felt could make a scientific contribution. To make the project work, we needed the contribution of an artist. So we were delighted to recruit Heather Barnett when the image statistics project was pitched to the Broad Vision team in February, and also to have stimulated the interest of some of the student researchers. The Ning site indeed proved vital to our interdisciplinary collaboration by supporting asynchronous discussion of how to implement our research questions across a team that was geographically distributed by more than 300 miles. I suspect that the Broad Vision project may provide a model not only of the learning opportunities offered by interdisciplinary practice, but how to initiate and support the interdisciplinary work conducted by professional researchers. Dr Mark Gardner
Principal Lecturer in Psychology
The relationship between Fourier spectra and aesthetic judgment of micrographs
In collaboration with Dr Paul Hibbard (Vision Lab, University of St Andrews), staff researchers Heather Barnett (Photographic Art) and Dr Mark Gardner (Psychology) are using micrographs to test a recent scientific theory of aesthetics (Redies, 2007, Spatial Vision). Redies’ ’universal’ theory is based upon the idea that the nervous system is adapted to process natural images, such as landscapes. The degree to which other images are perceived to be aesthetically pleasing is thought to be partly determined by the extent to which they share with natural images statistical properties that the visual system is optimally tuned to process. Support for this theory comes from the observation that works of visual art have Fourier spectra that closely resemble those of natural images. Micrographs offer a valuable opportunity to test Redies’ theory. The statistics of natural images have
a characteristic relationship between spatial frequency and contrast which provides the property of scale invariance. This scale invariance results in Fourier spectra that remain the same over a wide range of zooming. However, the scale invariance of natural images has not been tested to limiting cases such as the very high magnification involved in microscopy. Therefore, with contributions from student researchers Maeve McMahon, Joshua Dinsmore, and Louise O’Hare (St Andrews), we set out to characterise the Fourier spectra of micrographs and assess how this image statistic relates to aesthetic judgements. Fourier transformation is a mathematical operation that can decompose any image into a sum of sine waves with different orientations and spatial frequencies. Of special relevance to cognitive neuroscientists is the finding that cells in the visual cortex show tuning to spatial
frequency and orientation: it seems the human brain initially describes the structure of visual images via Fourier analysis. The image statistic relevant to Redies’ theory is the relationship between the spatial frequency and amplitude of the Fourier components. Amplitude captures information content, and tends to tail off with increasing spatial frequency. The rate at which amplitude diminishes can be likened to the relative importance of broad brush strokes to fine detail in an image. The Museum of the History of Science generously gave access to the 1,846 micrographs used in our research. These constituted the Museum’s complete digital record of micrographs taken to archive their collection of Edwardian and Victorian microscope slides, and depicted a wide range of animal, vegetable and mineral matter.
Our work in progress has been directed towards two research objectives. Our first objective was to characterise, for the first time, the Fourier spectra of micrographs. To this end, our full set of archival micrographs has been subjected to Fourier analysis. Preliminary results suggest that the Fourier spectra of micrographs may differ from natural images photographed at a macro scale. The property of scale invariance seems not to extend to natural images at high levels of magnification. Our second objective was to evaluate whether these
Fourier spectra relate to how the micrographs were valued aesthetically. One way that we have been tackling this question has been for one of us to select, via a methodical process, a subset of the images on the basis that they have particular aesthetic value. Initial results suggest that the images chosen by a judge (Heather Barnett) differ statistically from their parent population in terms of Fourier spectra, suggesting that this image statistic may discriminate those images of aesthetic value. We are also using psychology experiments to evaluate the
relationship between Fourier spectra and aesthetic judgement. These experiments involve presenting to a sample of raters a randomly ordered series of micrographs that have been selected by a machine on the basis of image statistics alone. Here, as we move our laboratory into the gallery, our goal is to assess whether the Fourier spectra of our images predict the ratersâ€™ aesthetic judgements.
Interactive Anatomy The skeleton game Zainab Asuni Ursula Brandes
We created a drag and drop game that involves a full skeleton. The objective of the game is to assemble the skeletal bones for it to be a full skeleton. It is accompanied by the scientific names of the skeletal bones, so that users not only play the game but also learn while playing. 120
Creation of the game
For the background of the game, Zainab designed and created a
basic lab as the scenario to correlate with the idea of the game. Ursula then took a picture of a skeleton figure and used Adobe Photoshop to transform it into skeletal pieces for the game. Afterwards, we transferred to the lab the background that Zainab created in Adobe Flash in order for us to apply the code. We used Adobe ActionScript code to make the game interactive for users. During the process of creating
the game, we gained many new skills such as innovation because of our creativity and logical thinking. We combined the two to create the skeleton game and we hope that the users will enjoy playing it as much as we did creating it. 121
Anatomy of the eye
Exploration of physical structure and imaging of eyes Sara Farajallah, Imaging Science Katie Rayner, Imaging Science Sami Jora, Life Science Ramon de Assis Figueiredo, Life Science Anjelee Tamara Sharma, Life Science Jinesh Revagar, Illustration
We are a mixed group of life scientists, image scientists and an illustrator who are all drawn to study the anatomy of the eye for different reasons. We aim to gain and increase knowledge about the eye through dissection. The life scientists hope to put an eye’s structures to the test by assessing strength and musculature, with the illustrator enjoying a life model that will keep still. The imaging scientists aim to document, where possible, through photography and/or video the highs and lows of progression and planning. Throughout the project we will collaborate and share our findings. In doing so we hope to contribute to everyone’s experience of the project. We have conducted extensive research regarding the human
visual system, and the signal pathways from the eye to the brain. We also researched the variety of microscopes available, and how they work, as well as problems that may arise while attempting to photograph through the microscope. So far we have started the production of a diagrammatic poster, which will convey information about the eye and some fun facts. A large montage of a microscope slide will show an interesting view of the eye never before seen. Our aim is the production of an image-filled and illustrative poster, photographs taken through the microscope, and who knows? There may be an eyeball or two floating around…
Photography by Sara Farajallah; Illustration by Jinesh Revagar
In order to explore the anatomy of the eye, an eye dissection took place. The eyes of the illustrator who, in a couple of hours, managed to produce amazing images; the lenses of the cameras carefully controlled by the imaging scientists (always ready for another shot); the agile hands of the life scientists cutting, slicing, opening and exploring every piece of the eye; the questions being answered by the facts themselves; the importance of each member of the group is expressed in this project. Fusing different fields into a single aim made the project an interesting and valuable experience for all of us! It did not mean that we were restricted to our areas of work; quite the opposite. It actually opened our capacities of perception, of working in a group; moreover, it increased our abilities of communication, an essential skill for any field. The outcome of this part of the project was immeasurable. We
believe that the secret of our success was the fact that we did not focus on a final product. Priorities have always been the processes of exploration and discovery linked with creativity and enterprise. As a result many ideas, designs, artwork and images were produced, and our understanding and appreciation of anatomy were enriched. These results reflected a very good mixture of opinions from the three disciplines about the anatomy of the eye. After our epic dissection we will all contribute and share our findings and experiences by creating informative scientific posters with a twist. Our idea is to produce posters that effectively teach what we have learnt about the anatomy of the eye in a fun, image-filled and illustrative way, rather than in a standard diagrammatic format.
Perspective Order from chaos
I believe that most of us have heard the theory that order comes from chaos. How many of us thought that it was absurd? How many of us thought that it was another crazy theory by mad scientists? Indeed, it is difficult to accept that it is true, but I was given the chance to demonstrate it. To me, Broad Vision is more than just a research project. It is about discovering oneself. It is about finding different ways to see life. With the growth of the global economy, the world is becoming every day more specialised. There are specialists for every area of work. This can be beneficial, as specific knowledge is created and improved. However, this can be limiting, and therefore dangerous! For that reason, I consider Broad Vision a very audacious project. While the world promotes specialising tasks, we propose a project of ’interdisciplinary chaos’. Our project has never had a final task. It is about ideas thrown in the air, on paper, in a picture, or even under the microscope. Ideas come from people on, initially, completely different pathways. It is a project about building, processing, listening, researching, sharing. I remember our first meeting; everybody wore white lab coats in a Cavendish Campus laboratory. I remember the strange feeling of having ’strangers’ in ’our little world’. Some had never seen a microscope in front of them before. A microscope – our so-valued instrument of
work! – but there we were, ready to share; to introduce this ’new world’ to them. Could any of us have imagined how much we would learn that day? The language used to refer to the same samples varied with different perspectives; the adrenaline, curiosity, and the passion began to flow within us. This passion was then stamped into posters in a studio in Harrow. Yes, it was time for artists, photographers and computer scientists to show us their instruments of work. What initially was complete chaos full of ink started to become beautiful paintings that organised and expressed ideas in different ways. These ways took us to a very exciting and more organised second phase. Phase Two of the project was based on building ideas and on understanding how important it is to work with others. By that time we had produced so many pieces of great material that an exhibition was inevitable. The order from Phase Two is now documented in text and a book is compiled. I am a part of it. I had doubted that order could come from chaos and could never have imagined how good it would feel to be proven wrong. I have developed a broader vision of the world. Have you? Ramon de Assis Figueiredo
Human and Medical Science BSc (Hons), Year 2
Perspective What a journey!
Almost a decade ago in the University it was rare to hear about interdisciplinary projects across multiple disciplines. This project is proof that we have come a long way since, not only as far as interdisciplinary projects are concerned but particularly regarding studentcentred interdisciplinary projects. When the initial Broad Vision discussions began, all staff researchers were enthusiastic and could not wait for the project to start. I think that the only concerns some of us may have had back then was whether the students would share the same enthusiasm and whether they would be willing to commit fully. Reading through this book’s students’ perspectives and reflections, it becomes clear that there was no need for such concern. Students’ commitment, enthusiasm and work have been exceptional! Educational researchers emphasise that a deep approach to learning is illustrated by aiming to understand and seek meaning. Broad Vision has offered to both students and staff a unique opportunity
for such an approach to learning. Together we went on a journey full of experiences and learning opportunities that, although very close to us in our everyday work environment (ie we are all working or studying within the University of Westminster), were so far away on so many levels. For example, I had never visited the microscopy labs (Cavendish Campus) before, or looked down a microscope. A highly interdisciplinary group of students and staff, with various levels of experience, swapped roles and disciplines and attempted to experience the microscopic world through the eyes of others. The teachers became students and the students became teachers, the scientists became artists and the artists became scientists and all of us together became active participants in our own learning. Frantzeska Kolyda
Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction and Multimedia
PHASE THREE Engaging audiences 134
Gallery Residency and Exhibition Having worked in smaller groups for six weeks with tutor support, the entire team came together at the end of March in London Gallery West (Harrow Campus, University of Westminster) to share the processes and products of their research and practice. Approaches were varied: some groups worked closely together in joint research activities, while others worked on individual self-set projects but took inspiration from earlier interactions and from continued conversations on the Ning network. The depth of research undertaken and the quality of artefacts produced reflected the enthusiasm and commitment of the student researchers. Following the presentations of research we took residence in the gallery, using it as a studio, a workshop and an office. Students from across the disciplines worked together to collate and finalise project work to go in the exhibition, to write content for this book and to co-curate the show.
The final exhibition was comprised of photographs, illustrations, animations, sculptures, collages, objects and interactive media, all work supported by statements of intent or background information to the research conducted. The work was grouped and contextualised, with decisions made regarding the balance of information given or open interpretation allowed. The artworks and artefacts produced through the Broad Vision research project tread a fine line between artistic interpretation and communication of science and all engage the visual cortex in myriad ways. Exhibition design by staff and students: Heather Barnett, Christine McCauley, Barbara Brown-Villedieu and Ailish Sullivan, with support from the rest of the Broad Vision team.
Additional photographs by Joshua Dinsmore, Heather Barnett, Simon Vitanza and David Freeman.
Working on Broad Vision as a staff researcher, based on the Illustration BA (Hons) course, has been an inspirational, affirming and fulfilling experience. It has been inspiring to work with such an enthusiastic group of students and staff who committed to the project, largely outside their normal timetables, because of a real passion for learning, intellectual curiosity and the desire to work in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. Initially, the planning of the introductory session for Illustration created new links within the course and across the cohorts, generating lively discussion and a greater understanding of the discipline. Students developed collaborative and leadership skills initiating and taking charge of the session. The Phase One sessions took us to departments and sites, many of which we had not visited before, and created a wider sense of a ’University of Westminster community’. Students have gained in confidence and have been able to develop enthusiasms for science they feared they would not be able to advance on a ’creative’ course. The collaborations between students across the disciplines
were natural and spontaneous. Prior assumptions about areas of interest, skill sets and enthusiasms began to blur and break down and it was incredibly positive to see students, most of whom will be working collaboratively in their future employment, being able to develop these skills. While there are many specialist ’creative arts universities’ there is a real opportunity for the more ’discipline diverse’ institutions like Westminster to develop unique interdisciplinary collaborations and learning. My personal aspirations for the future in this rich area of interdisciplinary research would be to participate more fully as a practitioner as well as a facilitator, and for the University to develop teaching structures that support and encourage projects and modules like Broad Vision. I hope that the connections I have made with a group of staff and students both from other campuses and the other end of the corridor will continue. Christine McCauley
Senior Lecturer in Illustration
Impetus and emergence
The impetus for the project came from a combination of personal interests and numerous disparate conversations, which slowly came together to form the proposal for Broad Vision. For me, the funding opportunity presented a way to connect my own areas of research and practice more closely with my teaching, and a chance to push some pedagogic principles further than modular teaching traditionally allows. As a visual artist with a long-standing commitment to working collaboratively with scientists, I understood all too well the plenitude of joys and frustrations of working outside one’s disciplinary boundaries. I wanted to create a space (both physical and conceptual) for exchange and interaction between the research cultures of art and science. I wanted staff and students to learn together in a non-hierarchical way with the focus on exploration and discovery rather than an end ’product’. The driving principle, therefore, was the firm belief that if one placed a group of people from different disciplines in the same room, connected only by an interest in vision and a curiosity about microscopy, that something interesting would happen. And indeed it did. The project sessions and research activities varied greatly, from highly structured and well prepared to downright chaotic. The dominant mode was loosely structured informality, where materials and methods
stimulated conversation and exploration. This was the richest ground for emergent interdisciplinary thinking, where conversations started with “What happens if…?“, “Can anyone help me with…?“ and “Look at this...“. During the lifetime of the project I have observed numerous interactions, which have started from a premise of disciplinary stereotyping and ended with greater understanding and mutual respect. We did not set out to create a melting pot, where specialisms could easily get lost. Instead we wanted the project to provide a nexus for students to appreciate their own existing expertise; to recognise what each other’s disciplines could contribute; and to develop, through their learning, an emergent curriculum. I am thrilled by what the team has achieved and yet recognise that more can be developed to facilitate and encourage such open and curious approaches to learning, where the points of collision and connection between disciplines stimulate novel insights and ways of working. Broad Vision was an experiment in learning and teaching and I learnt a great deal. Heather Barnett
Senior Lecturer in Photographic Arts Broad Vision Project Lead
This book has documented the timeline of the project (which started eight months ago), and the processes of disciplinary exchange, interdisciplinary collaboration and audience engagement: but Broad Vision is far from finished. Once we have had time to reflect upon the multitude of observations and insights gained throughout the project, there will be a great many other outcomes from the research. Educational papers will follow the evaluation process; the exhibition is going on tour; and we are in the process of developing an optional module using Broad Vision as an educational model, which we hope to offer students from across the University during the next academic year.
The ethos of interdisciplinary encounter, learning through research and generative curriculum design, will continue to grow within the working practices of all the Broad Vision participants, staff and students and, hopefully, will spread far beyond the University walls. Relationships have developed not only throughout the University, across disciplinary divides and split campus geography, but beyond, with outside research groups (at the Universities of St Andrews and Greenwich) and museum collections (The Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford). Future research proposals are already being discussed and no doubt numerous other, as yet unforeseen, outcomes will emerge in due course.
The undergraduate students who have participated in Broad Vision have deservedly earned their stripes and can be considered true researchers; curious, open minded, analytical and dedicated. We wish them the best of success in all that they do. The Broad Vision staff team:
Heather Barnett Dr Mark Gardner Dr Mark J P Kerrigan Frantzeska Kolyda Christine McCauley John R A Smith
Links Chiara Ceolin
chiaraceolin.com heatherbarnett.co.uk micro-designs.com Mark Kerrigan
gre.ac.uk markkerrigan.co.uk 148
christinemccauley.co.uk Barbara Brown-Villedieu
drawnbyb.blogspot.com Anand Damodaran
joshuadinsmore.com ssfphotography.co.uk Natalia Janula
nataliajanula.com Julia Nickerson
juliacommunicates.com Nina JĂ¸rgensen
ninajorgensen.com Moacir Lopes
medphoto.co.uk Fiona Marchbank
ailishillustrations.4ormat.com ailishillustration.blogspot.com The Museum of the History of Science
www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/smallworlds/ database/ Vision Lab, University of St Andrews
University of Westminster
THE ART & SCIENCE OF LOOKING How does what we know influence how we look? How do imaging technologies influence what we see? And how do our specialist disciplines determine how we interpret images? Student and staff researchers from diverse disciplines in the arts and sciences have been investigating these questions through a year-long interdisciplinary research project at the University of Westminster, UK. The Broad Vision project explored how we perceive and interpret microscopic worlds, and investigated the benefits and challenges of working across disciplinary divides in a university setting. This book documents the processes of disciplinary exchange, as students learned about each other’s disciplines; interdisciplinary research and practice, through collaborations and interactions; and audience engagement, by sharing the results through public exhibition. PHOTOGRAPHIC ART • IMAGING SCIENCE • ILLUSTRATION • LIFE SCIENCE • PSYCHOLOGY • COMPUTER SCIENCE Zainab Asuni • Heather Barnett • Ursula Brandes • Barbara Brown-Villedieu • Anand Damodaran • Ramon De Asses Figueiredo Joshua Dinsmore • Abigail Doe • Sara Farajallah • Mellissa Fisher • Mark Gardner • Natalia Janula • Sami Jora Nina Jørgensen • Mark J P Kerrigan • Frantzeska Kolyda • Oleg Kurbatov • Moacir Lopes • Fiona Marchbank Christine McCauley • Hannah-Sian McGuinness • Maeve McMahon • Suzie Patrick • Lukasz Pieczatka • Katie Rayner Jinesh Revagar • Debbie Sears • Anjelee Tamara Sharma • John R A Smith • Ailish Sullivan • Simon Vitanza • Theo Wheale Edited by Heather Barnett and John R A Smith Photography and Book Design by Chiara Ceolin ISBN: 978-0-9550951-5-3 broad-vision.info westminster.ac.uk
A charity and a company limited by guarantee. Registration number: 977818 Registered office: 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW 5249/10.11/JN/BP
BROAD VISION THE ART & SCIENCE OF LOOKING