IITGN’s Artist-in-Residence’s collaborative work of comics and visual narratives on infectious disease transmission’s history exhibited at MIT

IITGN’s Artist-in-Residence’s collaborative work of comics and visual narratives on infectious disease transmission’s history exhibited at MIT

Adding an interesting and visual dimension to the history and research of infectious disease transmission, Prof Argha Manna, Artist-in-Residence in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN), in collaboration with Prof Lydia Bourouiba, Principal Investigator of Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory and founder of Fluids and Health Network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, has captured and explained the complex fluid dynamics of disease transmission and its historical context through comics.

An exhibition and panel discussion of this collaborative work – titled “A Paradigm Shift in Infectious Diseases” – is currently underway at the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology until December 14, 2023. The exhibition on the “Scientific Method and Science Advances via Comics and Illustrations” showcases the example of the evolution of ideas and research in science and infectious disease transmission from ancient Greece to current times through the medium of comics and illustration.

The exhibit intends to present a unified story by bridging different cultures of disease transmission research across time: people who enabled the emergence of new paradigms in disease transmission research, the material culture of disease transmission research (i.e. instruments, materials, laboratory conditions, experimental processes), the theoretical culture (i.e. development of theories to explain disease transmission through physics and mathematics), and the visual culture (i.e. optical data, drawings, cartoons, illustration).

The event aims to clarify confusion about the transmission mechanisms of airborne pathogens and the importance of crossing boundaries between fundamental physical processes, biology, and physiology. It also highlights how the scientific method, coupled with the advancement of scientific equipment, has shaped paradigm shifts in science. Prof Manna and Prof Bourouiba have leveraged visual storytelling using comics to communicate these entangled concepts vital to the public understanding of the advancement of human knowledge.

Prof Argha has extensive experience in bringing the history of science to life through graphic narratives, including comics, data comics, illustrated essays, infographics, and paintings. Sharing his thoughts on this exhibition at MIT and communicating complex topics of science through comics, Prof Argha Manna said, “Prof Bourouiba and I tried to reach out to people beyond academia via a more inclusive medium like comics. In this project, infectious disease transmission research is our model. But, the bigger goal was to communicate the philosophy of how science makes progress in general through paradigm-shifting ideas.”