Sites of Sky: A Visual Cultures Analysis of Landscape Aesthetics in an Age of Virtual Ecologies

Sansone, Nicole Danielle. 2019. Sites of Sky: A Visual Cultures Analysis of Landscape Aesthetics in an Age of Virtual Ecologies. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis maps practices of making images of the sky across art, science, and digital culture. Skies present an unparalleled opportunity to consider the disparate topics of aesthetics and epistemology in one setting, and their historical treatment in both the sciences and the arts serves as an equalizer between thinking images in the two domains.

The thesis is organized into three sections, each emphasizing a different mode of perception (ecological, human, and technological). Section I demonstrates a link between aesthetic strategies and pluralities of knowledge. Chapter one provides a brief overview, and counter-reading, of the history of clouds in Western culture. Chapter two explores the limits of the image as a representative form through the process of cloud-extraction in satellite images. Section II explores modes of aesthetic engagement and knowledge creation through two related technical systems: the computer graphics pipeline and computer graphics and animation software. Chapter three shows how rendering protocols operate between human and technical ideals of realism in the photography series Postcards from Google Earth. Chapter four proposes the software Blender as a site of displaced optics, and stresses the continuous relation between human perception and software logic. Section III draws from my virtual ethnographic work on amateur earth modeling communities. In these final two chapters I build an aesthetics of ecological realism from discourses of troubleshooting. This is counterbalanced with the history of visualization in scientific computing to underscore the notion that visual phenomena can never be represented through a one-to-one capture, but instead are always situated in reciprocal negotiations between aesthetics and epistemology.

Through this work I reveal a set of attendant epistemologies that shape both nature aesthetics and knowledge of the physical world. My conclusions reinforce that the relationship between images and modes of looking and interpretation is fundamental to epistemic practices.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


ecological aesthetics, digital culture, perception, computer graphics, ecology, critical ecology, digital aesthetics, art, landscape art

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


31 July 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Sep 2019 13:42

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:15


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