Almila Akdag in HUMlab

This coming week we have the pleasure of having Almila Akdag from UCLA visit. Here visit to Umeå University is a joint venture with History and Theory of Art at the faculty.

[May 15 at 10:15 am CET]
Art History and Computer Art: Exploring arts-sciences-technology interrelations through Leonardo
Almila Akdag, University of California at Los Angeles

The following is an excerpt from my email discussion with Almila – a kind of abstract:

When I applied for Digital Humanities Fellowship, I had in mind to use citation networks to map out the birth of Visual Cultural Studies. I was especially interested in Visual Culture Studies’ engagement with the “digital”, i.e. digital art. However, to build such a huge citation network out of undigitized/and or poorly digitized data turned out to be a big hassle, and impossible to finish in the time limit of the fellowship period, during which I received technical support. This experience greatly helped me to fine-tune my questions, reduce the amount of data, and focus on a smaller project.

For my dissertation I investigated the relation of Computer Art with the agenda of art history. This is a topic that inevitably touches upon the interaction between Arts and Sciences, and one of my chapters is devoted how this topic is covered in Leonardo, an art journal with the aim of bridging arts, sciences and technology. A close inspection shows that Leonardo emphasized the importance of scientific standards in its way of offering a confluence to these three cultures. Tilting the balance heavily to one cultures has its sacrifices: one clear outcome of this is related to Computer Art, which is heavily criticized on the grounds of lacking critical content. In my study of Leonardo I have delved many papers which define art in a shallow way, disregarding its emotional and conceptual depth, cutting it from its historical, social and cultural roots, erasing its connection to the tradition. All this is done just to strengthen arts parallelism with sciences.

At HumLab, I would also enjoy showing the different digital humanities tools I might/should have been used to enhance my research. I’d also like to talk about my personal experience as a digital humanities fellow, and how I tried to combine my interest and wish in using digital tools with the prevailing methodologies of my own discipline. Digital Humanities as a methodology is not the norm in art history; far from it, it is rather regarded as a scientific approach to art historical problems, and as a potential threat to the theory infused perspective of the discipline. Here I see a parallelism with the intrinsic problems of Computer Art. As a movement, it is associated heavily with sciences, an association that resulted in staying at the peripheries of the art world for almost 40 years. For a traditional humanities scholar, digital humanities presents similar negative associations with sciences. This position poses vital questions about the nature/future of digital humanities: Should digital humanities aim to become a new culture, or just a space for humanities scholars to develop digital tools? Should the existing humanities research methodology updated/enhanced to incorporate digital tools, or should humanities take on a new role in the face of 21st century’s digital world by developing digital methodologies?

All welcome! The seminar will also be live streamed from here.