"There is a world where galleries overflow with new work, films and videos play non-stop, Websites blossom, everyone has at least one acquaintance in common, learned discourse alternates with witty gossip, and every third conversation ends with optimistic projections about the future." -Lunenfield, Snap to Grid.
This is the world of social media. This is a community of people connected by nothing tangible, but more relevantly than ever before. It is walking the delicate balance between honoring and commemorating the past, and creating the future. In this last spotlight for Humanities Studios 2: Homeless Paintings, I will be going back to the very beginning of the course, and seeing how the concepts we have intimately studied apply to this new world. This new digital space is populated by the constant documentation of our day to day lives, hyperlinks simulating real life interactions, hashtags marking our common interests, and the perpetual broadcasting of our own image.
"The project would not have been possible until the historical moment in which Berenson undertook it...two technological advances made an enormous difference just as Berenson began to work" -Rachel Cohen, The Life of Bernard Berenson.
The two technological advances Cohen writes of are the railroad and the photograph, the first of which made the transportation of an image quicker than ever before, the second of which made the image possible. In the 21st century, we are presented with a plethora of platforms to exponentially mimic these; the railroad is more refined, the photograph remains more or less the same. The greater implications of this, of course, is that we in our own ways become Bernard Berenson, connoisseurs of our own collections, and broadcast them to a much wider audience. And as we shape our collections, this is the snapshot of what we see that we pass down.
"At its deepest level, whatever the medium, note taking involves variations on and combinations of a few basic maneuvers, which I propose to identify as the four Ss: storing, sorting, summarizing, and selecting." - Ann Blair, Note Taking as an Art of Transmission
However, it has also become an art in and of itself. Derrida argues that a footnote will always be inferior, a sign of the main work being insufficient, but yet modern annotations have become more of a value add. They not only give information about the work in its metadata, but generate commentary and discussion. Recent years have also given birth to the hashtag, no longer only a way of tracking and linking related information, but becoming a way of denoting an aside, much like italicizing or bolding.
"Private collections often contain the most unexpected objects, whose banality is such as to make one wonder who on earth could possibly be interested in them...Our task is therefore one of finding out what, if anything, they all have in common." - Krzysztof Pomian, The Collection: Between the Visible and the Invisible
Berenson was a man obsessed with collection; lists and catalogues were made and transcribed throughout his lifetime, to be neatly organized by his assistants, and eventually sorted out with the Villa I Tatti collection. The overarching theme of our collection this year was the Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance, but subgroups and even more specific subgroups exist inside of the collection. Everything tends to fit in to narrower categories until only IT is remaining . Such is the way with modern, digital collections; an additional level of complexity is added through ownership of a platform account. The intricacy of how collection platforms are designed often dictate the user generated content.
"Graphical elegance is often found in simplicity of design and complexity of data."
We live in a world in which visualization is used as a hook, and sometimes effectively used as a time saver. In a society where attention span is disciplined to be 30 seconds long, where we are addicted to the over whelming flow of information, the quick fix of a good visual gives us the information we need without burdening us with the text. It is, arguably, also more efficient and human. Children, after all, are able to communicate through pictures before they can with words, and there are some things that words simply cannot describe. More importantly, however, they highlight the relationship between objects with simple spatial placement, instead of with verbiage. Is this not much easier to synthesize than looking at spreadsheets of metadata? Patterns that emerge, almost impossible to evoke without visualization, can tell us a story of cultural, societal, or environmental trends, depending on what filters are placed upon them.
"Museums of all kinds are defined by an arrangement of objects in space that requires the visitor to walk...It must be navigated." - Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, The Museum: A Refuge for Utopian Thought
The move from analog to digital is one that has revolutionized the way we look at media . In some ways, it has lessened our exposure to the real world because all the information we need it right at our fingertips. We can access the farthest corners of the world through a flat screen in front of us. This strange juxtaposition of the whole world through a greatly narrowed lens is available only with compromise. We live in a three dimensional world; four if one considers time. But in our new world, it is all compressed to two dimensions, everything is flattened, and time has no concept. However, if one subscribes to the multiverse theory, the number of possible worlds renders the digital world somewhere in between the second dimension and the infinite.
ON DATA OBJECTS
“Designing and building digital projects depends on knowledge of these fundamentals [digitization, classification, description and metadata, organization, and navigation] and on a nuanced understanding of the networked environments in which the projects will develop and variously reside. Curation, analysis, editing, and modeling comprise fundamental activities at the core of Digital Humanities.” –Digital Humanities.
But the best way to explain how data objects affect our curation of collections is to use them . This is a continued thesis on the Homeless Paintings, a reiteration and respin of all of the concepts used so far: homelesspaintings.tumblr.com