In March, scholars of visualisation and digital imaging will gather for what promises to be a great event entitled Visualisation in the age of computerisation. The call for papers can be found on the conference website. Deadline is 1 December.
We will be submitting an abstract for this conference, on one of complex topic we’ve been investigating in this project, at the intersection of STS and new media studies. We’ll be trying to characterise the epistemological styles we have found around networked, digital images–in other words, analysing the new forms of visual knowledge practices around databases of images. Watch this space!
On Thursday 12 and Friday 13 November ’09, a conference will be held in London that seems very interesting for our project. It is organised by CHArt (Computers and the History of Art; Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College London). This year’s topic is Object and Identity in a Digital Age. We hope to be presenting preliminary results from fieldwork at the Rijksakademie. In the paper, we analyze how artists and employees at the Rijksakademie invest themselves in practices of representation and documentation. We are especially interested in the entanglement of images and art works with the institute’s networked image database. Using recent STS literature on relational ontology (Marres, 2008; Mol, 2002; Stirling, 2008), we will argue that these entities are best understood as temporary outcomes of inter-related modes of engagement. In addition, we focus on how the visual documentation relates to the complex experience of making/seeing art objects. When and how are art works recognized as such, do they get documented, databased? What purposes does the database have for different users/producers (i.e. resident artists, employees, visitors, curators, researchers)? How does the networked context in which the images function as digital representations, shape the status of art objects themselves? Is this status fixed or fluid? And how do these documentation practices relate to other electronic settings and networks in which the images might circulate (artist’s website, Flickr, sites galleries, etc.)? We expect that our ethnographic study of interactions with the Rijksakademie database will provide insight into the ways in which the images are produced, treated, and valued as things that can be acted upon in mediated, distributed contexts.
We will be presenting on the project at two conferences in the Fall. The first will be a presentation on the methodological approach we are developing, in a session organised byElisenda Ardévol and Adolfo Estalella, and with contributions by Sarah Pink (Loughborough University, UK), Francesco Lapenta (Roskilde University, Denmark) as well as by the organisers. The title of our paper is Mediated ethnography and the use of digital and networked images, or ‘How to study ‘network realism’ as visual knowing’, and here is the abstract:
- This paper conveys our methodological approach to the study of ‘network realism’. Network realism is investigated as a particular form of visual knowing around databases of images on the web. This approach was developed drawing on three bodies of work. With regards to visual knowledge, we use work in science and technology studies (Beaulieu, van Dijck, de Rijcke, Daston & Galison, Hine); with regards to the study of visual material, we draw on visual anthropology (Pink, Banks, Edwards& Hart) ; and with regards to digital culture, we are inspired by scholarship on the cultural particularity of digital forms and of the internet (Elkins; Thurtle& Mitchell).
- The project includes four different sites: Funda, a database of real estate in the Netherlands; Flickr as used by scholars of street art; the database of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam; and the database of the documentation center of the Rijksakademie for visual arts, Amsterdam. We have developed an ethnographic practice in this project that embraces mediated interaction. This means that a range of forms of participant-observation is used in this project, including co-present and face to face interaction, observations of traces left by users in the various databases, and interaction with the various digital infrastructures.
- This diversity enables us to examine four important dimensions of visual knowing:how these databases and the web form a networked context for users and viewers of these images; how images have an active function besides being ‘viewed’, since these databases configure images as interfaces to other kinds of information or to other kinds of activities; how images in these databases become involved in textual and visual practices, through tagging, commenting and annotating; how the use of these images is supported by a particular kind of materiality, (including screens, image file standards, html code, etc) and how these images relate to the collections of material objects at all four sites.
- The presentation will contextualize and illustrate research on each of these four dimensions.
Our second Fall conference will be the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Sociat Study of Science, in a session organised by Catelijne Coopmans on “Data Riches: The Practices and Politics of Exploiting Digital Data Sets”. We will speak on Network Realism as Engagement with Networked Databases of Images, and here are the main points from our abstract:
- In contexts where visual representations are taken as evidence, debates around observation, knowledge and empiricism have always been complex. The development of infrastructures that enable new kinds of manipulation, interaction and circulation of images seem to further challenge their documentary role. Our paper will take as a point of departure the intersection of digital images and computer networks at the point where they purport to convey the ‘real’. It explores the ways in which digital images in networked contexts are produced, treated and valued as sources of knowledge about physical objects. Increasingly, such activities involve a new form of visual knowing that we label network realism. As part of the label, ‘realism’ draws attention to the way these images are involved in practices that are factual, material and consequential. The term ‘network’ invokes the novel contexts and practices around these images. Our paper conceptualizes and investigates this widespread but underexamined use of images, at the intersection of digital and networked technologies. We will discuss preliminary results from field work at four sites where network realism is central: the Rijksakademie for the visual arts; the Tropenmuseum (an ethnographic museum); real estate database Funda; and Flickr as used by scholars who study street art. At each of the fieldsites, images are part of databases and circulate in complex electronic networks in ways that are not reducible to, but are intimately related to their digital format. The manipulation of digital images in networks enables other kinds of knowledge than those possible by physical co-presence with the objects represented. The ethnographic study of interactions with databases provides insight into the specific ways in which users and producers come to know through networked images, in contrast to other forms of visual knowing.
More details on the events page!