Main research interests:

My research lies at the intersection of visual studies, media studies, image theory, science and technology studies (STS), history of science and medicine, and historical epistemology. By integrating methods from these fields, I examine how different types of images are used in natural sciences in specific historical contexts to produce new epistemic insights into complex and elusive phenomena ranging from the functional architecture of healthy and diseased human brains over contested illnesses to black holes. I am particularly interested in uncovering how novel types of images, which scientists deploy as research tools, actively shape and delimit the knowledge-producing processes that they facilitate and thus reconfigure our understanding of ourselves and our environment. Furthermore, I investigate the historically situated media-specific practices and operations through which a particular research community establishes the empirical and evidential validity of their image-based scientific findings.

1. Browser Art. Navigating with Style

In July 2022, I joined the transdisciplinary team of art historians, computer scientists, designers and software engineers who investigate how artistic browsers, as opposed to commercial browsers, differently configure and display the Internet content. The focus is on uncovering the processual nature of these dynamic visual interfaces and on tracing the underlying algorithmic operations that shape their functionality.

2. Authenticating Algorithmic Image Reconstructions from Sparse Measurements: From Black Hole Imaging to Medical Neuroimaging

New algorithmic approaches are being developed and applied in scientific imaging to reconstruct empirically plausible and epistemically reliable images of invisible or visually inaccessible objects from extremely sparse measurement data. Such image reconstructions are generated by statistically modelling the missing data from the existing fragmentary measurements of the objects of interest. The current applications of state-of-the-art algorithmic image reconstructions range from black hole imaging to medical neuroimaging. The resulting algorithmically reconstructed images fulfil distinctly epistemically operative functions in the scientific context in which they are generated, as they are meant to provide new empirical insights into the physical objects they visualise. Through a series of case studies, I explore how, in medical neuroimaging and black hole imaging, the development and applications of novel algorithms for reconstructing scientific images from sparse data are currently being negotiated concerning their referentiality, plausibility, empirical validity, evidential status, and knowledge-producing potentials. My interdisciplinary analysis combines methods from image theory, media studies, science and technology studies (STS), and philosophy of science.

3. From Photography to fMRI: Epistemic Functions of Images in Medical Research on Hysteria

Hysteria, a mysterious disease known since antiquity, is said to have ceased to exist. Challenging this commonly held view, my PhD dissertation has examined the current functional neuroimaging research into hysteria, now named functional neurological disorder (FND), and compared the current research to the 19th-century image-based medical investigation of the same physical symptoms. My central argument is that, both in the 19th century and the current neurobiological research on hysteria, images have enabled researchers to generate new medical insights. My analysis goes beyond the surface of the images, focusing on the step-by-step processes of the images’ creation and interpretation in the context of concrete experimental setups. Through detailed case studies, I trace how different images, from photography to functional brain scans, have reshaped the historically situated medical understanding of this disorder that defies the mind-body dualism. In addition to the open-access monograph published by transcript Verlag in 2022, the ongoing results of the project comprise multiple peer-reviewed articles.

The current focus of the project is on exploring the ambiguous role of social media in the COVID-19-related increase in functional neurological tics (labelled by some medical experts as “TikTok tics”) among female adolescents and the emergence of medical research into potential roles of gender and traumatic life experiences in the development of FND symptoms.