The history of digital humanities is well-documented; but the productive tension that results from combining computational methods with humanistic inquiry continues to break new ground. The development of the field of Digital Humanities to address the use of digital and computational methods for humanities research and publication renegotiates the standard practices of research methods and publication outcomes. The sources, processes, and presentation decisions that define a digital humanities project require specific parameters and functionalities depending on the subject matter and methods applied. Many have written about the specific concerns for Digital Art History work.[1] My work in the field addresses the components that make up a digital humanities project to consider they ways digital methods are allowing for more immersive learning experiences by providing greater context to be introduced in the dissemination of materials in the fields of art history and cultural heritage. Additionally, my work investigates the current challenges and debates facing the publication of virtual immersive materials and related scholarship.

 

While my work is necessarily interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, I argue that my research falls within the field of Digital Art History. My projects address the fields of Human and Computer Interaction, Memory Theory, Museum Studies, Digital Humanities, Art History, Folklore, Media Studies, and Ontology. In my dissertation, I consider our digital tools and devices as today's folklore objects - cultural artifacts that are worthy of study and preservation. Africanist and UCLA professor Arnold Rubin challenged the frameworks within the historical discipline of art history by writing about art as technology, emphasizing the work of objects within the world.[2] In pursuit of an argument that focuses on the dynamic between people and digital objects and where their mutually constitutive nature is explored,  I am working with the latest 360 photo and video technology that creates immersive experiences for audiences. With this technology, we can preserve a simulacrum of the environments and performances in ways that capture both the artwork and the audience, allowing a new method for reflecting on the dynamic and exchange between the two.

 

Many guiding examples covered in the dissertation are rooted in the experience I gain through my contributions to numerous digital projects, which you can learn more about by exploring my digital portfolio. Through making and experiencing, we foster different understandings that are as valid a contribution to scholarly production as analytical writing.  As a digital humanist, I adopt different modalities in the pursuit of the research, allowing for hybrid outcomes. In addition, due to the unpredictability of the research environment, digital humanities is akin to bricolage, offering a methodological approach that is responsive rather than prescriptive.[3] When the researcher is a digital humanist, their methods strive to fit the situations that arise, not unlike the agile and iterative processes used by many software development teams. Bringing process to the forefront is critical in the practice of digital humanities as well.  In Johanna Drucker’s article “Humanities Approach to Graphical Display,” she cautions digital humanists and visualization users from thinking about data as a given within the project, and suggests the concept of capta, or taken, to clarify for ourselves that knowledge is always constructed, not simply given as a natural representation of preexisting fact [4].  Exposure of one’s process becomes a way of counteracting the obfuscation brought on by computational work where representing inexactitude can be difficult, but is critical to the field of humanities. Therefore, in my work, I strive to pair interactive digital assets with textual analysis to allow users to engage with the material for themselves while supplementing that individuated experience with an interpretive layer that is rooted in strong research, metadata standards, and thoughtful access and preservation strategies.

 

[1] See: Bentkowska-Kafel, A., Cashen, T., & Gardiner, H. (2004). Digital Art History.; Baca, M., Helmreich, A., & Rodríguez, O. N. (2013). Digital Art History. Oxfordshire, U.K: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/gvir20/29/1-2.; Klinke, H., & Surkemper, L. (2015). International Journal for Digital Art History: Issue 1. Munich: Graphentis Verlag.; Klinke, H., & Surkemper, L. (2015). International Journal for Digital Art History: Issue 2. Munich: Graphentis Verlag.

[2] Rubin, Arnold, and Zena Pearlstone. 1989. Art as Technology: The arts of Africa, Oceania, Native America, Southern California. Beverly Hills, CA: Hillcrest Press, 11.

[3] Weinstein, Deena, and Michael A. Weinstein. 1991. "Georg Simmel: Sociological Flâneur

Bricoleur: Theory, Culture, and Society.” 8 (3): 151-168.

[4] Drucker, Johanna. 2011. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display,” Digital Humanities

Quarterly 5, no. 1, 2.

 

 

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