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The study of the relationship between an event and its representation is an open chapter of the semiotic. Every graphical representation is both a technical (e.g., the drawing tools) and rational occurrences (e.g., the ideological situation allowing such representation), which may have a relationship with both the sensitive phenomena (e.g., a relationship between corporal sensations and technical measures) and the conception of the reality (e.g., a relationship between the ideas of reality and its possible representations). Also when considering the representations of work, it is essential to consider that the relationships between graphic signs and working events are complex, and must be studied in both their historical and cultural contexts.

The work, understood as human productive activity, represents a fundamental element of humanization, and so also the history of graphical representations of work begins with the origins of art and writing. Since the times of the rocky incisions, until the representations of worker portrayed by the movies in the seventies, the history of the art displays many examples of visual representations of the working activity. However, such representations don't have any ambition of exhaustiveness or objectivity; hence, the relationship between sensitive phenomena and technical representations is indirect and mediated by the associations between the ideas of work and their allegorical or symbolic representations. The meaning of these images is characterized by a symbolic dimension and it can be interpreted. It is impossible for the observer to find a stable definition because the imagination of the draftsman affected all representation.

Nevertheless, in the science, the artistic representations are been very important during the development of observational disciplines like anatomy or botany. However, the particularity of theses disciplines is not to discovery the hidden qualities of theirs objects, but to represent it in the most forceful way. In this form of representation the sensibility of the draftsman is fundamental to transmit the life character of the objects in a artificial representation. It is for this reason that the progress of theses scientific representations is in connexion with the artistic development of natural representation, and it is immediately to think to mains examples of Leonardo or Johann Walter.

But it’s only in the end of the nineteenth-century that the experimental science is interested in the graphical representations as a scientific instrument. It is in the study of physiological motions that the graphic method appears. This “graphic method” is a particular graphical depiction, characterized by its "objectivity" and by its "scientific" drawing technique, which was not influenced by the designer’s interpretation of the reality. Indeed, the physiological graphic method is based on the idea that the human body is an organism in continuous motion that can directly draw the graphs of its own actions using the proper instrument The basis of the graphic method revolution is the autographic value of the physiological charts; i.e. the instruments of the new experimental method that may plot the true “words” of the body. Ludwig, inventor of the kymograph, the basic instrument of the graphic method, in a letter to his student Angelo Mosso, defines the graphs of the heartbeat as the "erste Stammeln” (first stuttering) of the heart.