Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik

Zentralinstitut der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Cultural Techniques of Synchronisation

Thomas Macho, Erich Hörl, Robert Dennhardt

The objective of this project is to conduct an exemplary study of the interdependencies and interactions between image, script and number in the cultural techniques of synchronisation. Our analysis will centre on historical shifts in the weighting of, and interferences between, the techniques of calculating time and measuring time. In the first application, the calendar was our central focus as a specific cultural technique for synchronising. Our objective now is to study in greater depth the perspectives on, and the conception of problems in, temporal synchronisation in the modern period. These were issues that emerged increasingly after the Gregorian Reform of 1582.

In order to be able to precisely describe the spectrum of shifts and interferences between calculating and measuring time in synchronisation techniques, we will select and examine three key examples of synchronisation that are typical of their period, with our focus being their visualisation strategies in images, texts and mathematical operations. These examples are (1) the cultural techniques of synchronising lunar and solar cycles in ancient advanced civilisations, primarily in relation to the establishment of binding solar calendar systems (here the keyword is »solarisation«); (2) the cultural techniques of synchronising cyclical and linear systems of calculating time, in other words, the whole problem of calculating long periods in the calendar systems of late antiquity to the early modern period (keyword: »the long year«); and (3) the cultural techniques of synchronisation in the modern period. Here we will focus on instrument-based techniques for synchronising processes and recordings of these processes, from phototelegraphy to computer clocking (keyword: »self-recording devices«).