SEIN - Current Research

We currently have major areas of research focused on images of the nano-scale.

Leonardo Issue

Stemming from an international workshop on images of the nano-scale held at USC, we are publishing a collection of inter-disciplinary papers as a special issue of the journal Leonardo. This volume brings together experts from diverse fields, each of whom has important insights to contribute to our understanding of images of the nanoscale. The premise of the volume is that in their passage from creation to consumption -- or better multiple consumptions -- various kinds of expertise are involved in the generation and use of images of the nanoscale. Yet, the people from these various expert domains rarely communicate with each other about their particular contributions to images of the nanoscale. The value added by each kind of expertise in the biography of these images is black-boxed. In bringing together the full spectrum of experts, we hope to open up these black boxes for joint inspection and mutual enlightenment. We believe that the result will be a better understanding of images of the nanoscale, and ultimate better images, images that communicate more effectively and that are less easily misunderstood.

Image Proliferation

Working with Alan Clamp, initially an undergraduate research assistant and now a graduate student in the history of science at USC, Ann Johnson has analyzed 50 years worth of images in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). They have created a rubric for what counts as an image (in chemistry) and applied that to every article (not including the brief communications) in JACS from 1950 through 2008 (over 63,000 images). They have thereby created a dataset of the number of images in every issue and can represent graphically increasing number of images in the journal.

What is most important about the dataset are the inflection points—when does the curve showing the rising number of images change? They found three key inflection points: 1969, 1984 and 2002. What factors led to these non-linear increases in the quantity of images in JACS? Johnson and Clamp argue that factors like changes in the reviewing system for potential articles, changes in academic reward structures (i.e., growth of quantitative assessment criteria like journal impact rankings), the move to new media, and changes in published patterns, among others, were operative.


In addition to these research projects, USC artist Chris Robinson continues to explore artistic images of the nano-scale.