Skip to main content


Images of the Earth

Module titleImages of the Earth
Module codeGEO3129
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Pepe Romanillos (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

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.

This module will assist in developing the following graduate attributes:

  • 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 evaluate critically 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. Outline the ways in which maps, landscape representations, photographs and other spatial images reflect and constitute different geographical imaginations

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Apply different geographical concepts and theoretical approaches to the interpretation and analysis of visual representations
  • 5. Interpret a wide variety of visual representations, from medieval mappae mundi and the earliest atlases, to the contemporary worlds of videogames
  • 6. 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...

  • 7. Identify, source, and evaluate different visual data
  • 8. Develop skills in the critical interpretation and presentation of cultural texts and objects
  • 9. Apply relevant visual methods and theories to the analysis of geographical representations and imaginations
  • 10. Develop independent learning skills including: self-directed reading, literature searches, and time management

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Indicative Module Structure


‘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’

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

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


Learning and teaching

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 plan500 wordsAllOnline
Group discussionsGroup discussionsAllOnline

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
Essay 1402000 wordsAllWritten
Exam602 hoursAllWritten


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 1AllAugust Ref/Def
ExamExamAllAugust 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 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 geo-coded¬†world, (Routledge)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

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