Cathode Ray Tube

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Picture taken during the demonstration of the Röntgen Rays at the meeting of the American Philosophical Society held February 7, 1896. The picture is of a key and coins inside a pocketbook. (Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1896)

Shadow Image

Technical Concerns

The Temperamental Tube

Maxwell's Demon In addition to its "temperamental" ability to represent clear images, the gas tube easily ran out of gas.

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A gas x-ray tube with a side tube for regenerating gas. "The regeneration mechanism D was activated when the gas pressure in the tube became so low that a spark jumped between E and F" (Arns, 862).


“But for Heidegger specifically, to call something a ‘world’ is to identify a process of binding and cohesion; thus it is a normative claim” (Han 2008).

X-ray technology is still used in medicine, but many medical sociologists cite a shift in focus in medical technology from representational images to statistical modeling. "The digital image is obviously a computer-generated image, which Stiegler often calls the 'calculated image,' in that it models the real, yet imitates it quasi-perfectly" (Han 2008). The calculated image might alternatively be understood to imitate the real "hyper-perfectly," or, in other words, to create a representation that better resembles the statistical norm. "By suggesting that the discrete image serves an an epokhe, Stiegler is arguing that what is produced an image by digital technologies is not necessarily "captured" (Han 2008).

The Technical Invasion of Privacy

Lentle, 513: “The apparel of a well-to-do Victorian lady seems to us today to have been used to deny the reality of flesh and blood. The idea that it might be made transparent by the use of x-rays may have been the first intimation of what we now consider the sexual revolution of the 20th century. The established social order, as well as public morality, had come under technological “threat.”

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Advertisement of "the perfect dress interlining" from The Globe, Toronto, Feb. 27, 1896 (Lentle, 513).
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Life Magazine, 1896

Monopoly on Reading

Pasveer, 364: “In the first years after Rontgen’s discovery the very question of who should be considered a competent and skilled Rontgenologist was not under discussion; neither was there a clear boundary between what we now call radiologists and radiographers. Every interested person who had access to the apparatus could and in fact did work with the rays in the early days, and no explicit rules were developed for the making and interpreting of the images.” Radiology societies sprung up. Pasveer, 365: “The Societies functioned as platforms for discussions of the rays, and as a basis for the professionalization of radiology; they also functioned as regulatory organs: regulating practices and membership, and thereby competence. Once important concern both inside and outside these Societies was the question of competence in the production and interpretation of the images.”

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Arns, Robert G. The High-Vacuum X-Ray Tube: Technological Change in Social Context. Technology and Culture vol. 38, no. 4: 852-890.

Bleich, Alan R. 1960. The Story of X-Rays from Röntgen to Isotopes. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Golan, Tal. 2004. The Emergence of the Silent Witness: The Legal and Medical Reception of X-rays in the USA. Social Studies of Science vol. 34, no. 4: 469-499.

Han, Sam. 2008. Is the Global Really Glo-bile? Image-ing the 'World Picture' in an Age of Mobile Onto-Aesthetics. Paper presented at Eastern Sociological Society Meeting, February 24th, in New York.

Lentle, Brian. 2000. X-rays and technology as metaphor. Canadian Medical Association Journal 162 (4): 512-514.

Pasveer, Bernike. 1989. Knowledge of shadows: the introduction of X-ray images in medicine. Sociology of Health & Illness 11(4): 360-383.

"Remarks Made at the Demonstration of the Rontgen Ray, at Stated Meeting, February 21, 1896." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 35 (150): 17-36.