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Reciprocal engagement between a scientist and visual displays

  • Author(s): Nolasco, Michelle Maria
  • Nolasco, Michelle Maria
  • et al.
Abstract

In this study the focus of investigation was the reciprocal engagement between a professional scientist and the visual displays with which he interacted. Visual displays are considered inextricable from everyday scientific endeavors and their interpretation requires a "back-and-forthness" between the viewers and the objects being viewed. The query that drove this study was : How does a scientist engage with visual displays during the explanation of his understanding of extremely small biological objects? The conceptual framework was based in embodiment where the scientist's talk, gesture, and body position were observed and microanalyzed. The data consisted of open-ended interviews that positioned the scientist to interact with visual displays when he explained the structure and function of different sub- cellular features. Upon microanalyzing the scientist's talk, gesture, and body position during his interactions with two different visual displays, four themes were uncovered : Naming, Layering, Categorizing, and Scaling. Naming occurred when the scientist added markings to a pre -existing, hand-drawn visual display. The markings had meaning as stand-alone label and iconic symbols. Also, the markings transformed the pre-existing visual display, which resulted in its function as a new visual object. Layering occurred when the scientist gestured over images so that his gestures aligned with one or more of the image's features, but did not touch the actual visual display. Categorizing occurred when the scientist used contrasting categories, e.g. straight vs. not straight, to explain his understanding about different characteristics that the small biological objects held. Scaling occurred when the scientist used gesture to resize an image's features so that they fit his bodily scale. Three main points were drawn from this study. First, the scientist employed a variety of embodied strategies--coordinated talk, gesture, and body position--when he explained the structure and function of extremely small objects. Second, three descriptive areas appear to influence the scientist's interactions : the small biological objects' features, the interview context, and the interview space. Finally, the interaction of the scientist's body with the visual displays created a unique engagement that allowed the scientist to share his understanding about extremely small biological objects

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