Modul E

Augenarbeit - Bild, Design und Psychologie

Focusing on the period 1880 - 1980, the project »Augenarbeit« [or visual labours] is concerned with the history of perception in (late) modernity; or, for that matter, with the many types of experts – scientists, engineers, and designers - whose calling it was to study, manage, and optimize human perception - by way of design. It focuses on the ways such expert knowledge historically re-materialized as machines and artifacts - think of advertisements, instruments or interfaces - designed to make perception more convenient, persuasive, and efficient.

The project »visual labours« is motivated by a desire, then, for a deeper, historical understanding of the ways in which knowledge about perception and cognition was produced within, and provoked by, the material worlds of practice. The aim is to understand how, in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the paradigmatic, modern spaces of work – the laboratory, the factory, the office and so on - began to figure as significant sites of knowledge-production concerning the visual; how, that is, these spaces gave birth to technés of form and organization, legibility, and visibility; and how they were intertwined with the genealogies of machinic interfaces, information graphics, displays and kindred devices which populated this proverbial »machine age« - as well as our own, so-called post-industrial age.

The project »Augenarbeit« is also an attempt, therefore, to take questions that have long occupied historians of science, media and/or art into new and somewhat different directions - ones that de-emphasize the historiographical vantage point of the observer-as-scientist (or artist), his or her scientific instruments, inscription devices and so on. In highlighting a more everyday, practical range of visual problems, »Augenarbeit« pursues a much wider population of modern, visual workers. This includes individual projects on the history of book design and the psychology of reading around 1900 (Fabian Grütter); on the history and uses of eye tracking technologies (Eva Frey); and, finally, on the history of applied psychology and design in the context of industrial and post-industrial automation, 1930s - 1980s (Max Stadler).