With the recent advent of systems biology, developmental biology is taking a new turn. Attempts to create a ‘digital embryo’ are prominent among systems approaches. At the heart of these systems-based endeavours, variously described as ‘in vivo imaging’, ‘live imaging’ or ‘in toto representation’, are visualization techniques that allow researchers to image whole, live embryos at cellular resolution over time. Ultimately, the aim of the visualizations is to build a computer model of embryogenesis. This article examines the role of such visualization techniques in the building of a computational model, focusing, in particular, on the cinematographic character of these representations. It asks how the animated representation of development may change the biological understanding of embryogenesis. By situating the animations of the digital embryo within the iconography of developmental biology, it brings to light the inextricably entwined, yet shifting, borders between the animated, the living and the computational.
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