A New Model for Image-Based Humanities Computing
Brown, Jacob Hohmann
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Image-based humanities computing, the computer-assisted study of digitallyrepresented ?objects or artifacts of cultural heritage,? is an increasingly popular yet ?established practice? located at the most recent intersections of humanities scholarship and ?digital imaging technologies,? as Matthew Kirschenbaum has pointed out. Many exciting things have been and are being done in this field, as multifaceted multimedia projects and ?advanced visual and visualization tools? continue to be produced and used; but it also seems to lack definition and seems unnecessarily limited in its critical approach to digital images. That is, the textual mediation required to make images usable or knowable, and the kinds of knowledge images offer, often goes unexamined, and the value of creative or deformative responses to images overlooked. This thesis will suggest Blake?s production of the Laoco?on as a model for a more open and relevant approach to images, will analyze what image-based humanities computing does and how Blake?s engraving recapitulates these actions, and will describe how acritical approaches to image description could be integrated and used, and how images could function as graphic mediation for other materials, in this field. Blake?s idiosyncratic Laoco?on exemplifies the ways that creators or editors respond to and describe images and the ways they use images to illuminate text. In entitling his plate ?[Jah] & his two Sons [. . . ]? and filling it with descriptive text, Blake shares the focus of image-based humanities computing on images as things to be broken down, described, and understood. But Blake?s classification and description, deformative in misreading the image, reveals the true nature of such mediation and the need for a more open system, one which allows observers to record how they interpret an image, perhaps best accomplished in image-based humanities computing through semantic web technologies like folksonomy tagging or collaborative wiki formats. And Blake?s act of pulling a pre-existing image out of context and applying it to a new textual work suggests a new function for images and the highly structured image databases of image-based humanities computing, to clarify or complicate textual works through graphic mediation.