Visualizations of “self” and “other”: immune systems in the schematic illustration and microphotographies

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Transliteration of original Title: 
Vizualizatsii «svoego» i «chuzhogo»: immunnye sistemy na skhematicheskikh izobrazheniyakh i mikrofotografiyakh
Denis Sivkov
Institute of Management – Branch of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
Issue number: 
No.2 (Vol.52)

Since the 1980-s the number of immune system's depictions has increased dramatically. Often in classroom or in hospital immunologists or doctors could show you how our immune system works. Most popular hand-drawn schema is a model of self-other distinction with clear and rigid border between body and environment. But there is a tension between different models of immune system and their visualizations. For example, it’s difficult to explain autoimmune diseases in terms and pictures of classical model self-other distinction because immunity means a war of self against self. Niels Jerne’s network model of immune system does not react on other or non-self. It deals only with its own components and prepares immune response before any possible invasion. In another model that’s called “symbiotic model” we cant tell about self and non-self, because some non-self entities are friends of organism. Besides some of bacteria in our body are responsible for our immune response. So there is no unity and consensus in immunity system’s visualization. But how do we know that immune systems exist? What if schemata are just a product of immunological imagination? Microphotographs made by electronic microscope are evidence of truth. They stabilize all arguments and controversies in visualization of immune systems. First Donna Haraway and later Emily Martin demonstrated microphotographs and asked people about their feeling and impression. Lay people couldn't associate biological of microphotographs and their limited body. Microphotographs are out of context of human bodily experience and in this sense there is no stabilization of arguments. Immune system’s microphotographs depend on hand-drawn pictures. Micrographs as fragments of immune system are not linked with immunological patterns. In this sense schematic images are “golden standard” for electron micrographs. There is no self and other in this picture but we define self and other in microphotographs by schemata.

representation, visualization, science & technology studies, immunology, immune system, self, other, microphotography, de-contextualization, mechanical objectivity

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