New article: “Data Ecosystems and Futures of Art History”
I have a new article out with Anne Helmreich and Charles van den Heuvel in the latest edition of Histoire de l’art dedicated to digital art history.
“Data Ecosystems and Futures of Art History” takes the form of a moderated discussion about the idea of research data within the discipline. We debate the meaning of the term “research data” itself, including the complex interplay between the knowledge produced by researchers based in universities compared to those in cultural heritage institutions. We also discuss what “reusability” - a pillar of open data principles in the sciences - can or should mean for art historians whose arguments frequently turn on contested views of how the world can be described, and how this kind of collaborative data production might occur in a field unused to operating in large organized teams. We also touch on uses and abuses of computer vision techniques, and close with our perspectives on the future of art historical training in relation to data literacy.
I’m pleased that the article ends with my closing reflection on what an art historical methods course would look like that doesn’t foreground “digital” approaches per se, but instead foregrounds deep thinking about our discipline’s information systems ranging from the online image database to the catalogue raisonné and their modes of production:
This approach could twine together the often unfairly-separated strands of “digital” versus “traditional” art history. It would underline how deeply knowledge organization practices underpin all types of art historical research, hopefully making the possibilities of data-driven research more accessible to all students, while also giving a crucial historical and critical grounding for budding digital art historians looking to use and create new datasets in their work.
It is because we all shared this capacious understanding of art historical data that we selected the title “Data Ecosystems,” in the hope of maintaining attention on the fact that art historical knowledge production, while it can often seem a solitary affair, is tightly woven into overlapping ecosystems of information that span centuries.