The Art Institute of Chicago has published two of three volumes of Perspectives, a new born-digital publication. The series of three themed volumes present a broad range of narratives, prompting new and compelling conversations around art and its histories, in relation to the museum's collections. The series is open access.
The second volume in the series edited by Emily Lew Fry and Erin Canning, Perspectives on Data includes an article by SAH member Solmaz Kive: Digital Methods for Inquiry into the Eurocentric Structure of Architectural History Surveys. Here is an excerpt from the article:
In this article, I develop some methods of digital visualization and data-driven analysis into tools better equipped to deal with the complex models that contemporary architectural surveys present. Diverse mechanisms are at work in maintaining the survey’s biased narrative. Although close reading is often needed to fully explore them, there are also measurable data that can be identified, enumerated, and studied. For instance, we can quantify the presence of different regions across the book, map the buildings each chapter discusses, plot the temporal span and geographic scope of the coverage, and diagram its system of organization. By tapping into other available data, a computational method of inquiry can further enrich the analysis by providing different layers of information and comparison. And, as Jaskot reminds us, the unexpected results of computational analyses can prompt new questions (both in kind and content) and initiate new directions of exploration and analysis. In short, beyond offering an effective mode of presentation to simply confirm what we might already infer from tables of contents, data-driven inquiry can yield novel insights, complementing traditional methods of analysis.4
In what follows, I first discuss the survey’s Eurocentric structure, emphasizing some aspects that are best suited to analysis by digital methods: the books’ coverage of different regions; their structure, including units, classification, and arrangement; and some patterns that recur across the chapters. Using this framework, I then apply specific methods of data analysis to two case study architectural surveys—a standard model and an unconventional one. Lastly, I briefly demonstrate how these methods could be applied to other surveys, taking as my example the survey museum, and end with a preliminary exploration of some limitations of this method of digital analysis itself. To perform and visualize this analysis, I use Tableau, a visual analytics platform. Tableau, which was mainly developed for business, has been adopted by digital humanists, as there is a free version accessible to the public. Tableau is, however, not the only application with such capabilities; ArcGIS, for instance, is an advanced software that is more often used in academia; it creates interactive maps and tables that offer more control over data.
Read the full article here. Read the entire issue here.
Solmaz Kive joined SAH in 2013. She is an active member of several SAH Affiliate Groups.