During their history, human cultures have developed ever-changing understandings of the world and ever-new techniques to represent it. From paleolithic cave paintings to digital search engines, concepts of reality are closely entangled with our basic ways of perceiving, ordering, and remembering. The course will explore some of the most significant phases and crucial turning points of this continuous ‘world-making’ process. Open discussions, close readings of text sources and the encounter with varying image material will enable students to decipher art works, artifacts, discourses, and technologies of the past and identify their lasting effects in contemporary cultures.

In the first instance, the course traces the evolutionary path and specificities of basic media for recording, storing, retrieving, or constructing reality. It addresses the world as it presents itself in a drawing or painting, in a manuscript or printed text, in photographs or film images, in computer programs or data clouds. Beyond that, and in more general terms, we will focus on the shifting dominants of (visual) perception that are incorporated in such concrete media: how are writing and the alphabet connected to overarching notions of linearity; how does 15th century central perspective invent both a new space and human subject; what arises from the idea of an all-seeing panopticism in the 18th century; what is the meaning of visual objectivity in 19th century science; are Google Maps and drone warfare related through their two-dimensional aerial view? (And finally: can we perhaps leave behind all these “Worlds of our Making”, visual or not, to acknowledge a multitude of non-human agents and forces that make up the global sphere?)