Images, Data-Visualization and the Narratives They Create: The Narrative Function of Images in Fostering MRI Innovation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is one of the twentieth century’s key diagnostic imaging technologies used in biomedicine and the neurosciences. Narratives around MRI invention and development are multiple and make use of a variety of approaches, from the historical-sociological to the semiotic. However, none of these accounts has considered the narratives that accompany and shape a technology in its earliest developmental stage. These emerging narratives,mediated or circulated by images, are fundamental for grasping the social construction of a technology as an ever-changing set of processes. Informed by literature and methods in image science, historical epistemology, and science and technology studies, this chapter demonstrates that the narrative function of images enriches our understanding of their epistemic roles in the exploration, transformation, and transmission of knowledge within scientific practice. Images and data-visualization can create myths, narratives, and counter-narratives to the official story that usually accompanies the invention and development of a technology. To illustrate this point, the chapter focuses on MRI early development as a clinical tool carried out within the medical physics laboratory in the 1970s at the University of Aberdeen, a trajectory considered peripheral by historical accounts of MRI innovation, which tend to privilege theory creation over practical making.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScientific Visual Representations in History
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-11316-1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • MRI development history
  • data-visualisation
  • centre-periphery
  • narrative function of images


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