The concept of distance manifests itself in different forms in art history. There is the distance between appearance and reality, the observer and the observed, between an object’s essential utilitarian qualities and its relationship with other processes across time and space. There is also the distance between scholars’ practices and thinking, the artists they research, and the wider public.Technology attempts to be a mediator of these distances in digital art history. From artworks to images of the artworks, to artworks as entries in databases; the distances increase and the researcher becomes disconnected faced with digitally flattened representations. This can be clearly seen by contrasting the traditional narratives that scholars use to describe, analyse and interpret art, with forms of structured data used in databases, which, although lacking semantics and meaningful context, are increasingly used as primary references.
A new overarching distance is created between the artwork and its representation in the digital space. Technology affects and obscures the way we see art and all its worldly connections making scholars sceptical of digital methods.
Could technology be used to continuously capture our changing understanding of art works and the reasoning behind it? ResearchSpace is a digital platform that adapts Semantic Web technology to provide a connected and interdisciplinary way of thinking.
In this presentation, we demonstrate how different art history research practices can be represented within this expressive digital system that supports the presentation of multiple interpretations and structured arguments. A system that works with, and in the space between, narrative and data.