The Art of Disease Modelling

Authors: Isley, V., Smith, P. and boredomresearch

Start date: 22 September 2014

Recent trends in epidemiology have moved towards spatial representations of infection dynamics, considering the ways in which people and vectors move through, inhabit and are influenced by the physical landscape. This, combined with commonplace use of computer simulation in moving image disciplines and transmediation of cartographic resources, presents new potentials for interdisciplinary research; relating the primarily visual concern of the arts with the need for insights into the behaviour of complex dynamic systems significant to human health.

In the domain of computer graphic art a notion of realism, based primarily on photographic representation, has been the predominant impetus driving innovation in the field. In this context a superficial notion of the proximate accurate image often takes preference over simulations that represent accurate descriptions of natural processes. In epidemiology a need to judge the value of any particular intervention requires that simulations relate meaningfully to real world implementations. Although it may be tempting to conclude that these representations have little in common, a deeper consideration of the motives, methods and practices reveals significant points of parity.

In this paper authors present their research from Silent Signal, an Animate Projects collaboration combining a contemporary artistic use of computer simulation with current research in the field of malaria epidemiology. Forming the basis for an argument indicating that the intellectual differences between art and science disciplines are increasingly being bridged by the impact of digital technologies. Central to this discussion is a consideration of the conflict between, accurate high resolution representations indexically linked to the real, and notions of the generalisable, necessary for the generation of meaningful representations.

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