CFP: Sorting, Simulating, and Decoding Cells

July 1-2, 2014, Marseille, France

Over the last decades, computer technology has changed the praxis of the life sciences radically. Before computational biology, biologists employed the microscopic eye, hands, paper and pen to observe, detail, order and classify the mass of dividing and multiplicating cells into a system of lines and connecting nodes. For example, by arithmetic tagging, which was early introduced by botanists, the cell observers of the 19th century traced each cell and its descendants, finally condensing the vast number of dividing cells into the mapped figures of horizontal ‘ball embryos’ and the vertical diagrams of cell lineage. These diagrams, the shape of which partly resembles computational flow charts, became a convincing and long-lasting visual argument for the cellular (and later genetic) processes of biological development, comparable to regulatory genetic networks, the time-lapse samples of video-microscopy, or maps of cell fate specification nowadays. Both modes of graphic representation are mapped images, both consist of parameters and data.

However, the coded graphs generated by computational software encompass an immense number of data, when compared
to the limited number of cells the biologists of the 19th century had to identify.

This IMéRA workshop will address the issues of (1) how to handle ‘big biological data’ with the means of devices, practices, and models, and (2) how to convert the information into knowledge and novel understanding of biological development. Our main objective here is to contrast the most recent visual representation of molecular cell biology, EvoDevo, and computational systems biology to the manual visualization of comparative embryology (or developmental history), classic cytology and (cyto)genetics
around 1900. For, we want to critically examine in which aspects the old and new practices of data accumulation and analyses resemble to or differ from each other.

Call for papers

Instead of a textual abstract we prefer the proposal of a title, supplemented by images, as we want to bring about an intellectually stimulating and perspective discussion about the diverse modes of mapping cells. The images/figures can be a historical one with an iconic significance nowadays, an original or a redesigned figure, improving a classic or well-established visualization. For, our intention is to organize the workshop around visual and theoretical arguments on past and present modes of cell mapping. We plan to print the best images for a poster exhibition at IMéRA.

We welcome contributions from young scientists and scholars from different disciplines (e.g., life sciences, history and philosophy of science, or history of technology, art history). To engage in lively debates, we are especially interested in experimental, visual, conceptual and historical contributions that elucidate and advance the issues and themes of our workshop dealing with the experimental, conceptual and visual knowledge of cells from the 19th century to the 21st century.

Deadline for proposals: May 15, 2014.

We will inform about the accepted proposals by May 22, 2014.

For any further question about the workshop, or for submitting a proposal, please send your query/proposal to

Confirmed participants include (in alphabetical order): Matthias Bruhn (Humboldt University Berlin), Ariane Dröscher (University of Bologna), Sara Franceschelli (ENS Lyon), Pierre-Francois Lenne (IBDML, Marseille), Nadine
Levin (Exeter University)

Sabine Brauckmann, IMéRA Marseille (France)
Vincent Bertrand, IBDML, Aix-Marseille Université (France)
Denis Thieffry, ENS Paris (France)
Bruno Vila, IMBE, Aix-Marseille Université (France)

Deadline: May 15, 2014

Posted: April 03, 2014