Friday, March 9, 2007

Squier: response to public post

Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 08:41:54 -0500

[ Squier's response to a public post by Dolores Hangan Steinman]

Dolores Hangan Steinman has left a new comment on post " Squier: response to Andrew Solomon's post":

I apologize for barging in, but I wanted to introduce the point of view of the bio-medical imager, with a clinical background. One advantage of the computer-generated medical images is that they decipher the “biological cryptogram” and make the unseen seen. They do not compete with data collected by the clinician but supplement them. As a research group, we are interested in the relationship between blood flow dynamics and vascular disease and the ways to convert this complex phenomenon into a mathematical description (or model) using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), The reason we study haemodynamics is the fact that plaques and aneurysms tend to develop at sites where haemodynamics are most complex and the success of vascular surgery depends on positively “sculpting” (manipulating) the haemodynamic environment.Another advantage of the computer-generated images is the “viewing” of and organ as a whole, thus presenting the organ and its functions in the context of its interactions with the rest of the organism, and providing a better understanding.It is also important to note that since the images are generated on the computer, there is no invasion of the body (neither of its function /non-invasive technique, nor of the privacy of the patient- see, for example Mona Hatoum’s “Corps etranger” and threat of invasion and violation that experienced by the subject). Of course, one can argue that images become the person and simulations are yet another way of dehumanizing the patient.As scientists and educators we are also aware of need for “truth” in these images and appreciate the difference between the scientific recording of data seen as documentary (and, as such, supposedly being safe of any manipulations) versus the scientific computer-generated simulations (created from patient-collected data that have undergone two conversions: once from the individual patient to numerical data (binary code), and then from numerical data thus obtained into images). Hope this helps a bit with the argument in favour of medical imaging.

[Squier wrote: ]
Thanks so much for the added perspective on medical imaging, which really needs very little argument in its favor, seems to me. Its capacities are stunning. And yet when you say "they do not compete with data collected by the clinician but supplement them," I would suggest you are speaking of the goal and the best case scenario, but not always the reality. Consider two frames from Brian Fies's graphic novel, Mom's Cancer (2006): these images convey the gap between the complex understanding of medical imaging available to the biomedical imager, and the flattened reception in the medical encounter. And as for the use of images to dehumanize the patient, Fies's panels say it all in the ironic gap between the verbal message and the counter-intuitive, ungraspable meaning of the math behind the visual image.I'd love to see a discussion of the role of graphic fiction in talking back to medical imaging, in fact: one set of visual images for another. Take the comic panels, with their complex grammar and vocabulary (see Scott McCloud's works) and the medical images (with the rich grammar and syntax you discuss in your posting.) It would be great to have a conversation between the two sorts of imagers: graphic novelists and bio-medical imagers.

Susan Squier
Brill Professor of Women's Studies, English, and STS
The Pennsylvania State University

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1 comment:

Sorada said...

I very much agree with you. Brian Fies's "Mom's Cancer" certainly fills 'the gap between the complex understanding of medical imaging available to the biomedical imager, and the flattened reception in the medical encounter.' I grew up watching a French cartoon animation about human body myself, and that was the first time I saw what a blood cell looks like. The conversation between graphic novelists and bio-medical imagers you talked about might have already occurred there. However, I think it's only a matter of time before the medical imaging technology catches up and fills that gap itself; endoscopy, within certain limits, can produce quite a vivid image of the inside of human body; ultrasound can now provide 3-dimensional images of the womb. Even so the graphic novel still has its own merits. The casual manner of it certainly moderates the issues that are usually hard to deal with like cancer. On the other hand, finding a woman getting bald because of the chemotherapy in strip-comic format might be disturbing to some people as well.

Sorada Thumrongvit
MFA Graduate Student