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Study information

Images of the Earth

Module titleImages of the Earth
Module codeGEO3129
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Pepe Romanillos (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Images of the Earth will expose you to the history and politics surrounding visual representations of the world. By exploring a diverse series of images and imaging technologies (from cartography to photography, film and videogames) you will gain critical tools to be able to deconstruct, interpret and evaluate a wide range of visual cultures. Exploring geography’s visual history reveals the manifold ways in which visual representations act in the world: configuring our geographical imaginations and mediating our relations to the environment. This module sets out to understand how contemporary visual practices are reconfiguring social worlds today.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Geography is often described as a profoundly visual discipline, bound up with its representations. Interrogating this assumption, this module explores the diverse ways in which the earth has been mapped, pictured and represented. The module examines how different visual representations of the earth, and particular technologies of vision (maps, photography, film etc.), both reflect and shape geographical understandings of the world, territory, nature and place. The module is divided into three thematic sections. The first section, Historical Cartographies, provides a broadly chronological account of mapping, stretching from some of the earliest attempts to represent the globe, to the maps of the Enlightenment period. In this section, and indeed throughout the module, attention is given to the specific cultural contexts in which different cartographic representations and images of the earth are produced and interpreted. The second section, Maps, Power and Politics, looks at the ways in which particular visual representations lend themselves to projects of imperialism and other forms of violence; from the mapping and exhibiting of Africa during the ‘Age of Empire’, to the optical detachment of US drone attacks in the ‘War on Terror’. The final section, Imaging Nature, focuses on the ways in which understandings of nature, ecology and wilderness are constituted through different visual representations; from Natural History films to National Geographic photographs. This section draws upon research undertaken by the convenor on the role of videogames in communicating environmental knowledges and on the documentary films of Werner Herzog. Overall, the module unpacks the active role of images of the earth in constituting different geographical imaginations in different historical periods.

Through attending the lectures and seminars and through completing the assessments, you will work towards developing the following graduate attributes:

  • interpersonal skills (small group discussions and debates)
  • confidence (relating the ideas tackled in lectures and literature to everyday contexts and using them to contribute to conversations with non-experts)
  • problem solving (linking theories discussed on the module to the practice of visual analysis)
  • developing your own ideas with confidence (in particular, the coursework assignment provides an opportunity for you to undertake active, enquiry-led research by conducting a visual study of your own choosing, supported by dialogue with the module convenor).
  • managing structure (identifying key demands of the assignment, setting clearly defined goals, developing research strategies to ensure individual success)
  • time management (managing time effectively individually)

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss the history of cartography, and the history of geography as a visual discipline
  • 2. Explain how different spatial representations are connected to historical and cultural contexts, and shaped by particular conventions of seeing and vision
  • 3. Describe the historically varying techniques and technologies of vision through which conceptions of earth, globe and world have materialised
  • 4. Outline the ways in which maps, landscape representations, photographs and other spatial images reflect and constitute different geographical imaginations
  • 5. Critique the relations between mapping, territory and politics
  • 6. Deploy different methodological and theoretical approaches to the interpretation, critique and analysis of visual representations

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Apply different geographical concepts to the interpretation and analysis of visual representations
  • 8. Identify, evaluate and deconstruct the visual nature of geography
  • 9. Illustrate and discuss the contested ethics and politics of visual media
  • 10. Interpret a wide variety of visual representations, from medieval mappae mundi and the earliest atlases, to the contemporary worlds of videogames
  • 11. Communicate geographical ideas and perspectives through written and visual means
  • 12. Apply social and visual theory to specific geographical questions and debates
  • 13. Undertake original visual research on a self-directed research question

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 14. Identify, acquire, evaluate and synthesise data from a range of sources
  • 15. Evaluate contrasting theories in order to critically explore particular topics
  • 16. Evaluate and assess topics, showing consistency of argument and depth of analysis
  • 17. Evaluate research-based articles within the wider context of the module as a whole
  • 18. Develop independent learning skills including: self-directed reading, literature searches, and time management

Syllabus plan


‘Pale Blue Dot’: Earth as an image

Interpreting cartographic representations

Historical Cartographies

From Kosmos to Christ: Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Cosmography, Spheres, and Spatial Revolutions

Landscape and the birth of perspective

Enlightenment mapping, terra incognita, and the ‘cartographic reformation’

  • Seminar discussion §1 on Historical Cartographies

Maps, Power and Politics

Mapping and Imperialism

Maps, race and the geographies of violence

Photography and the rise of the “World-Picture”

The ‘War on Terror’: a drone’s eye-view

Google Earth, GIS and panoptic visualities

Subversive and radical cartographies

  • Seminar discussion §2 on Maps, Power and Politics

Imaging Nature

Documenting and exhibiting: from Natural History to National Geographic

‘Encounters at the end of the world’: Film, Herzog and the non-human

Nature as an image 1: nature, environment, resource

New media, videogames and the reconfiguration of the environment

Nature as an image 2: Gaia, ‘wilderness’ and world

  • Seminar discussion §3 on Imaging Nature


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching19Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6Seminars (3 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Film screening
Guided Independent Study123Self-directed readings

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay surgery tutorialsEssay plan1-7, 12-14Oral
3 x guided seminar discussion sessionsGroup discussions1-7, 12-14Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination602 hoursAllWritten
Essay402000 wordsAllWritten

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExaminationAllAugust Ref/Def
EssayEssayAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination or submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Brotton J, 2012 A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Allen Lane: London)
  • Cosgrove D, 2001 Apollo’s Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination, (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press)
  • Cosgrove D, 2008 Geography and Vision: Seeing, Imagining and Representing the World, (I.B. Tauris: London and New York)
  • Dodge M, Kitchin R and Perkins C (eds.), 2009 Rethinking Maps (London: Routledge)
  • Harley B, 2001 The New Nature of Maps, (Baltimore and London Johns Hopkins UP)
  • Livingstone D, 1992 The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise, (Blackwell)
  • Mogel L and Bhagat A (eds.), 2008 An Atlas of Radical Cartography, (Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press)
  • Pickles J, 2004 A History of Spaces: Cartographic reason, mapping and the geoÃ?¢ï¿½ï¿½coded world, (Routledge)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Images of the earth, world, space, mapping, maps, cartography, globe, atlas, historical geography, visual cultures, visuality, violence, imperialism, post-colonialism, geographical imaginations, war on terror, military geographies, visual theory, photography, media, videogames, google earth, new media, landscape, nature, wilderness, ecology, deep ecology, aesthetics, religion, politics, Christianity

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date