Image / Language
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Science without language is unthinkable: Scientific knowledge is gained, explored, discussed and communicated through the medium of language. But what about images? Which role do visualisations and visual imagination play in different scientific disciplines? The current Junge Akademie Magazine takes a closer look at the specific visual dimensions of certain research topics, while also examining whether — and how — these topics can be — or already are — depicted. External science communication often (re)produces stereotypical images, thus reinforcing what we already know about the topic. This imagery, however, cannot compete with language-based science. Even Bildwissenschaft, or Visual Culture Studies, expresses its ideas through the medium of language. Generally speaking, science does not produce any (alternative) images. At first sight, the visual dimension of research topics often seems completely marginalised.
This edition of the Junge Akademie Magazine therefore aims to explore these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective. In the field of Art History, imagery is part of everyday practice — but without language, even this scientific discipline would be at a loss. In her article, Isabelle Dolezalek explains how much remains »unseen« in images from earlier times when these are not explained with words. In literary texts, there are some images and figurative compositions of letters: So visualisation also plays a role here. But still, Literary Studies remains a discipline that is generally dominated by and centred around text, according to Michael Bies. And what about the field of Mathematics? Interestingly, Timo de Wolff uses language metaphors for mathematical formulas — but in a very unique way. For him, formulas are a more precise way of expression, and he believes that language alone as a form of communication cannot reach the same level of precision. Boris N. Konrad and Martin Dresler examine the central importance that images in particular have for memory strategies. Even though the popular distinction between visual and non-visual learners is outdated, it is still clear that memory techniques depend on the visual imagination. It’s also impossible to imagine science communication without images. Stefanie Büchner focuses on canonised representations in the social sciences arguing that, through their own sort of independent existence, these representations convey primary and secondary messages that are not supported by science. Finally, Benedict Esche explores the interplay of images and words in architecture. In his article, he provides a unique discussion of humans’ changing relationship to themselves and to the world around them throughout the course of history.
Using only an image, the poster page in this year’s magazine poses the question of how simple images (pictograms) such as emojis influence our idea of science and scientists.
We hope you enjoy the issue.
Bettina M. Bock und Benedict Esche