Translational Research

Arrows are often used to represent complex processes in biology; at times concealing complexity by simplifying it. These hand drawn arrows are a counterpoint to icons imported from computer graphics, arguing we need to capture more of the messiness of biology. They also raise questions. The software arrow too simply encodes complexities, but how are these multiple arrows going to be read?

3 thoughts on “Translational Research

  1. I got to view these images by way of Dr. Gail Davies on twitter, and her inquiry on the “use of ‘arrows’ as rhetorical devices in scientific research” and I just wanted to share how insightful these two works strike me. And, as I commented to her, I was especially struck by the second image, the one in which the arrows’ forms are actually negative space (if I’m using the term correctly), as it is actually the chaotic-looking, in-between things that are “making” the arrows. So for me it really highlights non-linearity; maybe it helps counter how arrows tend to over-simplify our sense of space and events/time.

    And with the tornado, besides just being so intriguing to look at, it again highlights non-linearity, and chaos, which makes weather rather difficult to predict. Weather graphics make heavy use of arrows, yet they don’t easily convey all that’s happening at the same time in weather, or any other phenomenon. (Also, I’m drawn to it as tornadoes frequently feature in my nightmares, but this is quite brilliant!)

  2. Hi Rosibel, Thanks so much for visiting the site and leaving a comment. I think we’d very much agree with your comments on the importance of negative space here. Elsewhere, Helen has written ‘Sometimes ambiguity and mess needs to be inhabited, as in the poet John Keats’s ‘negative capability’: the aim of avoiding ambiguity may very frequently conceal a morass which sometimes might fruitfully, and sometimes necessarily should, surface – for in ‘mess’ may inhere the not-yet understood.’ Which, to me, really resonates with the way you have read these. Gail

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