Reconfiguring Evidence: Interacting with Digital Objects in Scientific Practice
This paper analyzes how scientists working in a multidisciplinary team produce scientific evidence through building and manipulating scientific visualizations. The research is based on ethnographic observations of scientists’ weekly work meetings and the observation of videotapes of these meetings. The scientists observed work with advanced imaging technologies to produce a 4D computer model of heat transfer in human prostate tissues. The idea of ‘digital objects’ is proposed in order to conceptually locate their ‘materiality’, observed in the practices of producing evidence through the handling of three-dimensional renderings of data. The manipulation of digital objects seeks to establish meaningful differences between parameters of interest, both when building and when analyzing them. These digital objects are dealt with as part of the empirical evidence used in the course of practices of visualizing and modeling natural phenomena. This process, which can be contextualized historically in terms of the development of imaging technologies, becomes crucial in understanding what counts as empirical evidence in current scientific work.