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Jan 18, 2021 Article
Neurons in sparkling space: scientific objectivity and ‘blurry’ images in neuroscience

by David Gruber

This article employs quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine images of neurobiology published in a science news database, sampled across a two-year interval. Upon comparing the images to article headlines, the author argues that identifiable digital effects — such as blobs of bright colour, sparks of light, superimposed lines — correlate with articles reporting on new observations of neuronal action. A qualitative semiotic analysis of characteristic examples forwards the idea of a “blurry image”, denoting how audiences must cognitively blur the line between objectivity and subjectivity, between the “real” and the enhanced performative action evident in digital images tingling with vibrant life. The conclusion suggests that digital image making can increase aesthetic pleasability even as it serves as a partner in the cognitive task and, accordingly, the argumentation of the neuroscientist. Future research can investigate whether or not digital overlays and image features identified as obvious and attractive impact assessments of scientific research or alter evaluations of objectivity.

Volume 20 • Issue 01 • 2021

Feb 16, 2016 Article
The extent of engagement, the means of invention: measuring debate about mirror neurons in the humanities and social sciences

by David Gruber

Mirror neurons (MN) — or neurons said to be able to "mirror" the sensed environment — have been widely popularized and referenced across many academic fields. Yet, MNs have also been the subject of considerable debate in the neurosciences. Using a criterion based sampling method and a citation analysis, this paper examines the extent of engagement with the neuroscience literature about MNs, looking specifically at the frequency of "MN debate sources" within articles published in the JSTOR and Communication and Mass Media (CMMC) databases. After reporting the results, the paper reviews characteristic examples in context and, ultimately, shows that MN debates remain largely absent from peer-reviewed articles published in JSTOR and CMMC. However, the paper suggests that this happens for good reason and that MNs retain the potential for inventive animations even though debates have gone largely unrecognized.

Volume 15 • Issue 02 • 2016