Form and Fact

Form and Fact.
Jefferson Journal of Science and Culture.
English, 2013.

According to Mary Poovey’s A History of the Modern Fact, in the nineteenth century statistics came to encapsulate what is characteristic of the ‘modern fact.’ Expressed as arithmetical descriptions, as measurements, or in statistical form, numbers appeared to be a guarantee of impartiality and transparency in the production of knowledge in the Western modern world. This paper develops further Poovey’s own alignment of the modern fact with the construction of a stylistic convention, in which numerical representation has a privileged position. It is not only number that is at stake here, but the whole graphical arrangement of such numbers. Central to this concern is how these statistical figures are read and interpreted as a graphic configuration. In this sense, it is about the emergence of a new “figure-ground” relationship, that is to say, a “ground” that has the capacity to treat “facts”, the sources of knowledge, as “figures”.