Bender and Marrinan 2010
- "A diagram is a proliferation of manifestly selective packets of dissimilar data correlated in an explicitly process-oriented array that has some of the attributes of a representation but is situated in the world like an object. Diagrams are closer in kind to a Jackson Pollock than to a Rembrandt." (7)
- are "reductive renderings"
- are "supplemented with notations"
- can "concretize process"
Drawing on art history, media studies, science studies, literary history and cognitive science, Bender and Marrinan take an interdisciplinary approach to an understudied area of visual culture: the diagram. In their definition, a diagram is "a proliferation of manifestly selective packets of dissimilar data correlated in an explicitly process-oriented array that has some of the attributes of a representation but is situated in the world like an object" (7). In other words, it takes some of the attributes of a taxonomy, organizing an object and its relationships, and some of the tableau, presenting the world from several aesthetic perspectives. It is this dual function of the diagram that makes it not simply a representation but a tool for thinking.
Bender and Marrinan ground their book in several close readings of the diagrams included in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie. Whereas "most critical readings of the Encyclopedia align its mode of presentation with a rationalist enterprise of analytic subdivision," Bender and Marrinan attempt "not to treat the entries or illustrations as fragments of an idealized entity, but as a proliferation of independent elementst hat, when interconnected, produce knowledge of the whole" (10). Thus the diagram acts as a machine to produce meaning in concert with an active, engaged viewer.
Later chapters turn to Jacques-Louis David's work, which display characteristics of the diagram, as well as eighteenth-century debates about theatrical illusion and geometry. Bender and Marrinan tend to use the diagram to re-read contemporaneous art and philosophy, rather than using culture to better understand diagrams. As a result, the book's first chapter can be used as a tool for thinking through eighteenth-century epistemologies -- much like the diagram itself.