From Ancient Greek to the Cognitive Turn - and a bit what happened next

Udo Maria Fon

Introduction and general anticipation

Fig. 1: Illustration by the author, 2017

Fig. 2: Victor Blacus, Oct. 2021, Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 3: Frederick Kiesler (late 1930s). Vision Machine Retrieved Oct. 2016

Fig. 4: Leon Battista Alberti (1436) Linear perspective Retrieved Oct. 2016

Fig. 5: Camera obscura, Ex Bibliotheca Gymnasii Altonani, 18th century Retrieved Feb 2017

Fig. 6: Detail from a copy of the Kitab al-Manazir, MS Fatih 3212, vol. 1, fol. 81b, Süleimaniye Mosque Library, Istanbul, 11th century Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 7: Spectacles, Paris, ca. 17th Century, KHM Vienna. The photo was taken by the author

Fig. 8: The Guttenberg Bible was the first mass-produced 42-lined book in Europe. An early wooden printing press like Guttenberg used it, depicted in 1568. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 9: Nikolaus Kopernikus (1543). De revolutionibus orbium coelestium Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig 10: Albrecht DÜRER, Man Drawing a Lute, Woodcut, 1525

Fig. 11: Reproduction of one of the four optical devices that Zacharias Snijder in 1841 claimed were early telescopes built by Zacharias Janssen Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig 12–14: Johannes Kepler (1604). ASTRONOMIAE PARS OPTICA, Retrieved Nov. 2016 (Images not available in 2021)

Fig. 15: Hans Vredeman de Vries (1604) Book of Perspective, plate 30 Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 16: Galileo Galilei (1610). Sidereus Nuncius Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 17: René Descarte (1629 and 1633). The World, Treatise on the Light Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 18: René Descarte (1637) La dioptrique Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 19: Robert Hook (1665). Micrographia Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 20: Christiaan Huygens (1690). Treatise on Light (French: Traité de la Lumière) Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 21: Picture from Huygens' telescope without a tube. 1684. Astroscopia Compendiaria tubi optici molimine liberata Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 22: Detail of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz‘ so-called New Year’s Letter to Rudolph August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, dated 12 January 1697, showing Leibniz‘ binary code scheme as a pyramid of numbers. G. W. Leibniz Bibliothek, LBr II, 15, Bl. 19. Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 23: The Staffelwalze, or Stepped Reckoner, the digital calculating machine invented by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz around 1672 and built around 1700, on display in the Technische Sammlungen museum in Dresden, Germany. It was the first known calculator that could perform all four arithmetic operations; addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. 67 cm (26 inches) long. The cover plate of the rear section is off to show the wheels of the 16 digit accumulator. Only two machines were made. The single surviving prototype is in the National Library of Lower Saxony(Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek) in Hannover; this is a contemporary replica. Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 24: Isaac Newton (1704) Opticks or a treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections, and colours of light. Retrieved Jan. 2017

Fig. 25: Alexander BAUMGARTEN (1750/58). Aesthetika. Science of sensory perception Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 26: Immanuel KANT (1790). Kritiki der Urteilskraft. Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 27: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1810). Theory of Colours. Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 28: Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg d. J., (1801). Coalbrookdale at night. Oil on canvas. Retrieved, Oct. 2016

Fig. 29: Peter Mark Roget (1824). Explanation of an Optical Deception in the Appearance of the Spokes of a Wheel Seen through Vertical Apertures", Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 115, pp. 131-140. Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 30: Stephenson's Rocket, 1829 at the Science Museum, London Image: William M. Connolley Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 31: Michael FARADAY (1831). On a peculiar class of optical deceptions, Journal of the Royal Institution of Great Britain Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 32: Joseph PLATEAU (1832) Phenakistoscope. Retrieved Jul. 2016

Fig. 33: Device for viewing the stroboscopic discs by Simon Stampfer (ca. 1833) Retrieved Nov. 2016

Fig. 34: The Giroux daguerreotype camera made by Maison Susse Frères in 1839, with a lens by Charles Chevalier. Westlicht Photography Museum in Vienna, Austria.ére_Daguerreotype_camera_1839.jpg

Fig. 35: First rotary printing machine (newspaper printing machine) from ca. 1843 cf. This image: Retrieved March 2021 

Fig. 36: Gustav Theodor FECHNER (1876). Vorschule der Aesthetik. Retrieved Feb. 2017 

Fig. 37: The first telephone connections went commercial in 1878. The image shows an actor portraying Alexander Graham Bell speaking into an early model of the telephone for a 1926 promotional film by American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T). Retrieved Feb. 2021 

Fig. 38: Étienne-Jules MAREY, a photo of flying pelican, ca. 1882 Retrieved Jul. 2016

Fig. 39: Eadward MUYBRIDGE (1887). Animal locomotion Retrieved Aug. 2016 

Fig. 40: Electrical engineer/inventor Guglielmo Marconi with the spark-gap transmitter (right) and coherer receiver (left) he used in some of his first long-distance radiotelegraphy transmissions during the 1890s. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 41: Ernst MACH (1886). Beiträge zur Analyse der Empfindungen, p. 14äge_zur_Analyse_der_Empfindungen.html?id=6MChRgFRN00C&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false Retrieved Sep. 2016

Fig. 42: Sigmund EXNER (1894). Entwurf zu einer physiologischen Erklärung der psychischen Erscheinungenär.html?id=NATGcPTw8AQC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false Retrieved Sep. 2016

Fig. 43: Ibid p. 209 

Fig. 44: 1895 the first film projection machine "Phantoscope" has been exhibited. A creation of Charles Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat. Published in Scientific American 1896 October 31, page 325 Retrieved Sep. 2016 

Fig. 45: Max Planck (1899). Planck modelled blackbody radiation Retrieved Sep. 2016

Fig. 46: Albert EINSTEIN (1905). Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 47: Nils BOHR (1913). On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules Retrieved Dec. 2016

Fig. 48: Max WERTHEIMER (1912). Experimentelle Studien über das Sehen von Bewegung Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 49: Optical illusion "Kanizsa triangle" Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 50: Sigmund FREUD (1921). Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse. Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 51: The first known photograph of a moving image produced by Baird's "televisor", as reported in The Times, 28 January 1926 (The subject is Baird's business partner Oliver Hutchinson.),_1st_Image.jpg Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 52: Replica of the Zuse Z3. Original built 1941 Retrieved March 2017

Fig. 53: Basic Information Principle. Illustration by the author.

Fig. 54: Warren S. MCCULLOCH, Walter PITTS (1943) A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity. Bulletin of mathematical biophysics, vol. 5 (1943), pp. 115–133. Retrieved Feb. 2016

Fig. 55: Claude SHANNON (1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication. The Bell System Technical Journal, Vol. 27, pp. 379–423, 623–656. Retrieved Feb. 2016

Fig. 56: Norbert WIENER (1948) Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Paris, (Hermann & Cie) & Camb. Mass. (MIT Press) Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 57: 1st-Order Cybernetic Prinziple. Illustration by the author.  

Fig. 58: Early monochrome analog TV receiver ca. 1957-1960. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 59: Ernst GOMBRICH (1960). Art and Illusions. A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. Phaidon

Fig. 60: The view of the Apollo 17 crew on the Blue Marble 1972. Retrieved Feb. 2017 

Fig. 61: The vision of superhuman abilities and special perceptive abilities is visualized in this film still from Richard VIKTOROV's movie "Moscow-Cassiopea", from 1974. Retrieved March 2017 

Fig. 62: James J. GIBSON (1966). The Senses Considered as Perceptual System. Houghton Mifflin Company Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 63: James J. GIBSON (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Houghton Mifflin

Fig. 64: Tim BERNERS-LEE (1989). Information Management: A Proposal. Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 65: Launch of Wikipedia in 2001. Screenshot from 2021 by the author.

Fig. 66: Launch of Facebook in 2004. Screenshot from the way back machine on

Fig. 67: Alva NÖE (2004). Action in Perception. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 68: Partial map of the internet, based on the January 15, 2005 data found on Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses.,_inverted.png Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 69: First smartphone (iPhone) on display under glass at the January 2007 Macworld show. Arnold Reinhold. Retrieved Feb. 2021

Fig. 70: Thomas FUCHS (2018). Die gemeinsame Wahrnehmung der Wirklichkeit. Skizze eines enaktiven Realismus (The common perception of reality. Sketch of an enactive realism. German only). Retrieved Jul. 2020

Fig. 71: Compound eye of the Antarctic krill Euphausia Superba. Photo by Gerd Alberti and Uwe Kils Retrieved March 2017

Fig. 72: Call for urgent action. Interactive website illustrating amout of engaged people. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 73: The ‘Clean A\R App’ uses modelled air quality data to visualise the pollution in cities using an augmented smog effect on social media. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 74: Visualization of a city’s mobile phone signal data between 8:00 AM and 8:10 AM on August 14, 2017. Retrieved March 2021

Fig. 75: Kenji KAWAKAMI (1995). 360ºPanorama Camera Retrieved Feb. 2017

Fig. 76: SNL, Chris MILK (2015). 360-degree record of Jerry Seinfeld-Q&A Saturday Night Live Show 40 Retrieved Jan. 2017

Fig. 77: Keiichi MATSUDA (2016). Hyper-Reality. Video still Retrieved Jul. 2020

Fig. 78: Barrett Lyon, The Opte Project. Illustration of all DNS connections of the global network from January 18, 2021 Retrieved March 2021



Perception is researched in natural sciences as well as in humanities. First and foremost it describes an information process between inside and outside of a living being. Perception is among all the only tools artists are working with. No matter if art uses the language of hyperrealism, abstract expressionism, the language of political, social, or simply beautiful images, art is the sensorial window by which the mechanisms and interactions of nature plus society become visible knowledge. The British painter John Constable claimed in 1816 that: “Painting is a science, and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature.”1 

This investigation of consciousness-perception-reality cycles (cf. Fig. 1) is, therefore, more in line with well-established cognitive researchIn contrast to cognition, perception can generally be understood as the reception of sensory impulses without giving them meaning. "I feel the heat of the sun" is a simple statement of the sensory impulses of one moment in one specific environment. But "the heat of the sun makes me run for water" describes a cognitive process. 

Due to the Vienna Declaration on Artistic Research in June 2020, this work can not be understood as artistic research either because no common artistic practice is here presented and reflected. Nevertheless, the context of artistic research is preferred here for several reasons. On the one hand, it was the intention of the author, who himself was fortunate enough to enjoy an artistic education, to get to the bottom of the most fundamental circumstances of perception. On the other hand, the technical developments and social interactions of the last years and decades are so incisive that there is obviously a big change in the way the world can be viewed ongoing. 

But while a scholarly narrative is always concerned with a comprehensive detailed description, the artistic reflection here is more likely discussing and processing one of the greatest works of art ever. If the world is considered as a piece of art as Piero Manzoni did in 19612, every human being is an artist, as Joseph Beuys claimed several times3. And therefore every observation can be considered as an artist and of course social action, not only regarding various physical phenomena. 

This artifice not only seems necessary in view of the failing political structures in recent years. Also, in the face of the helplessness of aggressively contagious diseases, it becomes apparent how quickly the world and the way the world is viewed can change. 


So this work attempts to present an overview of some milestones that focus on the issues of vision. Although this overview has still traits of a scientific narrative, emphasis was placed on discovering a meta-level of these developments. This becomes particularly difficult as soon as the threads multiply in the 20th and 21st centuries. From a scientific point of view, only a "diving" into the details seems here serious. But a reduced focus on artistic works helps to regain height to gain an overview back again. However, it must be noted once more, that the question of perception is superseded in the 20th century by the question of cognition. This is due to the practical applications of various information-theoretical boosts. On the one hand, in terms of electromechanical engineering challenges, as well as in terms of computer science, robotics, or artificial intelligence. But one thing emerges. The individual and public dynamic experience always a strong fluctuation when technological achievements strengthen and expand the human sensory perception. 

Since much of this research predates the publication of the Vienna Declaration, this work can only serve as an illustration of the following questions. Is public perception the alter ego of individual perception and can be seen as a living entity? Are mobile phones and big data something like a gigantic compound eye of a global civilization that is generating a specific, collective reality (cf. Fig. 71 et seq.)?   


Reality is the common description of everything, that can be perceived together. In 2007 for example Steve Jobs introduced the first smartphone, Mircosoft released Windows Vista, a truck bomb exploded in Bagdad, North Korea agreed in shutting down its nuclear facilities, a total lunar eclipse occurred, a solar eclipse occurred, a school shooting in Virginia killed 32 people, Live Earth concerts were held in nine major cities around the world, Greece suffered the worst heat wave of the century, the Phoenix spacecraft was launched toward Mars, first signs for the financial crisis 2007–2008 became public, multiple suicide bombing in northern Iraq killed 572 people, an 8.0 earthquake in Peru killed at least 519 people, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, WikiLeaks published the standard US army protocol at Guantanamo Bay, the cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh killed up to 15.000 people, the Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the members of the European Union and a painting by Pablo Picasso had been stolen in the Museum of Art of Sao Paulo. 

Over one decade later the turbulent events of 2007 seem more than normal. Maybe because everyone got used to the amount of information. But with the market launch of smartphones this year the global communication reached a very important milestone together with some other technical innovations. Three years earlier Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, Eduardo Severin, and Mark Zuckerberg already released a very new information architecture for web browsers which made it possible to create user-generated content even as a non-expert. This highlighted an enormous shift from a standardized information industry system to a wide stream of social channels information system. Now many people can share their individual perceptions, meanings, and impressions, which must not match with information campaigns of mass media. This technical extension of individual perception enabled a never-before-seen flow of information and so the view of the world.

This view was anything but harmless. Many cases of abuse of power and deliberate infiltration or even damage to the public welfare became known.4 This was indeed a very new situation. The possibility to identify objects even abstract constructions are generally linked with the human sensory organs and the perceptible environment, mainly with the function of the human eyes. The brain almost uses a quarter of its activity and approximately 60 percent of the cerebral cortex for the analysis of the visual world.5 Even though the visual perception is only a small section of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be measured (cf. Fig. 2). And the new situation suddenly made it possible to watch someone having dinner on the other side of the world. It is obvious that such radically expanded visual ranges bring changes. But let's have a look at the beginnings of this topic in ancient Greece.   


One of the earliest concepts in the history of visual perception is the possibility of seeing due to eidolons (Fig. 3), small copies of real objects, consisting of small, indivisible particles called atomos, which fly into the eyes. The Presocratic philosopher Democritus (c. 460-371 BC) was convinced of this idea because he saw the reflection of such objects on the surface of the cornea.6 He also was convinced, that there are two kinds of knowledge existing, one through the senses and the other through the intellect.7

Platon was convinced that the eyes beam a ray like a scanner on the objects of reality (Fig. 4). It was Aristotle who assumed that only shiny objects like fire or the sun produce light, which is reflected by objects and which reflections reach the eyes (Fig. 5).

It took centuries till the Arabic scholar Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham investigated the anatomical structure of the eye (Fig. 6). Between 1011 and 1021 he wrote the famous Book of Optics which confirmed the assumptions of Aristotle, that seeing is possible because of rays of light.

But „Alhazen“ as the western historians called Ibn al-Haytham, was also engaged in neuropsychological aspects of visual perception. He noticed that seeing happens more likely in the brain than in the eyes. And everything one sees, he supposed, is influenced by personal experiences.8

Even though no new concept for visual perception has been developed till Copernicus, Kepler, or Descartes, Alhazen's Book of Optics was a long time the only accepted theory and a very important key for the development of the central perspective in the Renaissance.9

It took more than 500 years till Johannes Kepler found some answers to questions of the diffraction of light, which had been unsolved by Alhazen. In 1604 he published Astronomiae Pars Optica (Fig. 12–14), where he analyzed the inverted and reversed projection of images by the human eye lens onto the retina.

Galileo Galilei refers to Kepler's achievements in his development of a refracting telescope. The possibility to boost the human eye with the help of optical instruments is an important step in the development of perception and the change of view on the world. When Galilei published 1610 his observations of the Jupiter moons in the book Sidereus Nuncius (Fig. 16) he reinforced the investigations of Nicolaus Copernicus brought to the public 67 years before.

In the year 1543 Copernicus's book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Fig. 9) had been published right after his death. He knew that the leading political system, which had been powerfully connected with the catholic system, could not accept his heliocentric model of the universe. Galilei knew that the Copernicus system is inexorable and the religious interpretation of universal processes was no longer arguable.

René Descartes treatise on light Traité du monde et de la lumiére, written between 1629 and 1633 (Fig. 17), disseminates a nearly complete methodological, philosophical, biological, physical and metaphysical interpretation of the „idea, that is formed in our imagination through the intermediary of our eyes“.10 It is the beginning of the modern era and the interaction of several substantial polymaths fusing the existing knowledge of their time.

Descartes as well as Galilei were friends of Christantijn Huygens, a Diplomat and advisor of the House of Orange-Nassau, and the father of the Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens. Christiaan Huygens treatise on light Traité de la Lumière published 1690 (Fig. 20), described that all points of a wavefront of light may be regarded as new sources of wavelets, that expands in every direction.11

Four years before Descartes died (1650), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 1646, and another four years earlier Isaac Newton was born in 1642. Through the vast correspondence of Christiaan Huygens (born 1629), it is known that Huygens met Newton in London 1689, and became a friend of Leibniz in Paris some years later. The connections and rivalries of the polymaths of these times changed the interpretation and the perception of the world.

One example is the lifelong interest of Leibniz to develop a universal relevant language (Characteristica universals), which boosted the development of the binary system, the basis of any existing computer system (cf. Fig. 22 & 23).12 Newtons detection of different spectral hues overturned a century-old dogma of „pure“ light, which was assumed to be white. Though Johann Wolfgang von Goethe defended the Aristotelian theory of the fundamental nature of white light in his Farbenlehre (1810, Fig. 27), Newton’s particle theory of light in his book Opticks (1704, Fig. 24), was the beginning of a completely new understanding of light.

In the middle of the 18th century, not only the physical understanding of light and the way humans can see had been changed. The philosopher Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten published 1750/58 Aesthetica (Fig. 25), a theory of beauty, established perception as an independent science in humanities. Although he connected the term aesthetics with the concept of human sensations „as the ultimate ground of judgment in questions pertaining to beauty.“13 With this book the philosophical discussion of aesthetics started and not at some remote period, 1781, Immanuel Kant reacted to Baumgarten’s publication with the statement that aesthetic could never contain „objective rules, laws or principles of natural or artistic beauty“.14 Kant stated nine years later in his Critique of Judgement (Fig. 26), that an aesthetic judgment has to be subjective. Arthur Schopenhauer countered Kant, that he „does not start from the beauty itself, from the direct, beautiful object of perception, but from the judgment concerning the beautiful…“.15

Parallel to the philosophical dispute a further development arose, which should change the perception and the view of the world again. In the late 18th century James Watt patented a steam engine with a continuous rotary motion.16 The beginning of the industrial revolution stimulated the investigation of moving images. Michael Faraday published in 1831 (Fig. 31) an essay on a peculiar Class of Optical Deceptions.17 He observed the optical phenomenon of two wheels moved in opposite directions with equal velocity. The Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau featured 1832/33 the same effect with a device called phenakistoscope, which demonstrates the illusion of a moving image by counter-rotating disks with repeating drawn images in small increments of motion on one and regularly spaced slits on the other disk (Fig. 32). 1833/34 the Viennese professor for geometry Simon Stampfer invented the stroboscopic disk, which showed a series of images on one side separated by slits (Fig. 33). When the disk was held and rotated in front of a mirror, the images appeared to move when watched through the slits.18

Years later the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach became famous for his study of shockwaves and in the field of supersonic fluid mechanics. But his initial studies were based in the field of experimental physics and the investigation of the interference, diffraction, polarization, and refraction of light in different media under external influences. He defended phenomenalism recognizing only sensations as real19 and all knowledge as a conceptual organization of data of sensory experience or observation (Fig. 41).20 Machs rigorous criteria of metaphysical concepts of absolute time and space (like Newton suggested) prepared the way for Einstein's relativity theory.

Albert Einstein extended a hypothesis from Max Planck, who suggested that the emission of radiation is not continuously happening but in discrete packets, called quanta (cf. Fig. 45).21 Einstein investigated the interaction of matter and light by explaining the emission of electrons on a metal surface irradiated by light or higher-energetic photons. The photoelectric effect was based on the concept that light is composed of photons and that an atom in a metal can absorb either a whole photon or nothing (Fig. 46).

Nine years before Einstein´s theory appeared a theory by the physiologist Sigmund Exner published 1894 which claimed that perception is a complex excitement triggered by consciousness.22 Exner outlined the idea, that the inner representation of the world is possible by the network of neuronal regions in the brain (Fig. 42 & 43). Exner already recognized the basic idea of the cognitive neurosciences and opened the door to the psychological aspect of perception, which had been discussed four years earlier by the philosopher and founder of the Gestalt psychology Christian von Ehrenfels in his essay Über Gestaltsqualitäten (On the Qualities of Form) 1890. Ehrenfels was convinced of the quality of perception of the whole, compared to its parts. Alexius Meinong, who had been Ehrenfels´ dissertation adviser in Graz, specified the Gestaltvorstellung (figure imagination) as the result of a psychological act as a product of imagination (Vorstellungsprodukt). Together with Stephan Witasek and Vittorio Benussi the Graz School of Experimental Psychology represented a subjective creation of Gestalten (figures), which is added to the complex of perception as a second or higher level. In contrast, the Berlin School of Experimental Psychology with Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka stated a figure (Gestalt) as a primary object.23

From the development of perception as an inner image of the outer world and from the Gestalt theory to cognitive psychology, it was obvious that perception is an important part of a mental process next to attention, language use, memory, problem-solving, creativity, and thinking.24

The mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener developed a transdisciplinary psychological approach of perception into a regulatory system subsuming as cybernetics (Fig. 56) in 1948.25 While the term still remains an understanding of technological control of any system, Heinz von Foerster developed Wieners concept to the second-order cybernetics, referring to biological processes. Founding the Biological Computer Laboratory in 1958, he investigated self-organizing systems, observing systems, cognitive processes in perception and developed with additional parts of physiology, information theory, perception theory, technology, and epistemology a further branch of constructivism.26, 27 Foersters comprehensions of constructivism entangles an observer indivisible with the observed within a system.28

Parallel to Norbert Wiener the mathematician and electrical engineer Claude Shannon published in 1948 A Mathematical Theory of Communication (Fig. 55).29 This paper provided the concepts, insights, and mathematical formulations that now form the basis of modern communication technology and are widely received as the beginning of information theory and the emerging information age.30

In art images always had been the central topic in depicting the world. The perception of images equaled symbolic markers indicating places and objects of hunting or religious acts. In the development of the central perspective in the renaissance (cf. Fig. 10 & 15), a window had been opened, which imitated reality so apparent to the world of matter, that the imaginary interpretations of these constructed worlds did not attract further attention.

In the scientific study of sight and the behavior of light, images became more and more representative of developed knowledge. The industrial revolution brought forward the studies of moving images and the reflection of perception in physiological and psychological disciplines. The act of seeing became an autonomous expression of art. The development of technical devices to sharpen the perception changed the view of the world. Peter Weibel called this machine perception (apparative Wahrnehmung).31 Alfons Schilling, Walter Pichler, Oswald Wiener, Max Peintner, and Peter Weibel developed in the 60s series of artworks elaborating this questions of perception by machine influence and if „reality had been always a virtual reality“.32

With augmented reality, tangible reality is virtual reality. Or at least it can be taken for real through augmented perception (cf. Fig. 72). With this development, the view of the world changed not the first time. Mass media, the first image from the moon onto the earth (Fig. 60), the worldwide web pushed humanity forward similar to the period in time when the first microscopes and telescopes were built.

While in the 15th and 16th centuries central perspective enabled a photorealistic depiction of nature, it also developed somehow an egocentric perspective, while the geocentric perspective changed into a heliocentric one. The technical possibility to take pictures and to distribute them easily promotes a decentralized perspective in the 21st century. But this process creates so much data, like never before 2013 in the whole of humanity. Without artificial intelligence no augmented reality is possible. And in the rush of time, the developments can not follow a linear protocol any longer.  

As always, only a small excerpt from the sum of events can be described. While a fairly linear narrative seems possible until the cognitive turn, the flow of information intensifies enormously in the 20th and early 21st centuries. However, it can be noted that in the understanding of perception, the view of the world is implied. It would therefore be presumptuous to assume that only one worldview exists for all people. This contradicts any notion of diversity within a species. But there are certain unifying perspectives that apply even when it is unclear where the path leads. From the continuing illustration, at least, it is apparent that many developments revolve around a public perception that points to a collective body.

Even if this brief historical outline is structured chronologically as far as possible, it is difficult to describe the variety of parallel events. This overview, therefore, makes no claim to completeness. It demonstrates that after the establishment of technical aids for the expansion of human perception, phases of an intensive exchange of information begin. This allows existing structures to be viewed and reflected on in a new way. And this often causes social reconstruction, riots, uprisings, and sometimes even war. Like the Thirty Years' War some years after the development of the telescope. Or looking at World War I, some years after the first telephone connections had been established and the radio went on air. Such occurrences always mark the end of an outdated worldview and a new beginning. 

Image index

Fig. 1: Common concept of perception. The ability to see, hear and become aware of an environment is creating reality.

Fig. 2: The electromagnetic spectrum.