Dilemmas, Ethical and Pictoral

A brief post today, in reference to today’s New York Times article, “Genetic Testing + Abortion = ???”

The caption for the image above reads, “BEYOND ROE New technology may complicate the debates over abortion.” But of course, the ultrasound technology depicted in the image is not the technology in question. Instead, we’re talking about the role genetic tests play in people’s decisions about whether to abort a fetus.

I admit that the art director in me understands why one would select an image that says “prenatal technology” over one that says something less specific to the headline. But it’s a bit like doing the wrong keyword search in Google. Much more germane to the topic would be more abstract images of magnified amniotic fluid or genetic test analysis.

This strikes me as a good example of the competing interests in selecting imagery to complement a complex story. Both image choices (the Times’ and mine) relate to the story, but one has to ask what the purpose of the image is: whether it’s to act as an attractor or to illuminate a story element. Both approaches have their faults, since I would admit that the images I dug up in two minutes’ of searching don’t exactly clarify what’s going on so much as they offer visual stand-ins for the techniques that contribute to the growing ethical dilemma.

In the Womb (and the Dark)

An article in The Daily Mail reports on a new documentary from National Geographic showing the development of three mammal species—dog, elephant, and dolphin—from conception to birth. The Daily Mail piece suggests that a variety of techniques were used, including direct imaging.

The caption for the above image includes a credit for “CGI Artist, Steve Gomez,” which doesn’t tell much of a story. A “Behind the Scenes Facts” page goes into some detail on “4-D ultrasound” techniques (although the very phrase obfuscates the simple fact that it’s just 3-D scans in time), but how those data are reconstructed into the imagery used in the show gives me pause. Briefly, during the preview, one sees what appears to be raw data from the ultrasound. showing the dog fetus moving around—let’s just say that it’s not as spiffy as the elephant above.

The main page of “In the Womb: Animals” also features an interactive timeline that I quite fancied. Perhaps they’ll add greater detail on the process used to go from low-res ultrasound to slick 3-D (um, 4-D) animation.