The Past's Digital Presence: Some Reflections, Part II 

After last week’s class discussion, I thought it appropriate to post more on the Yale conference, particularly session IV, Theorizing the Digital Archive, as most of the presentations were at least peripherally-related to issues that got brought up in our class discussion on semantic KOS for cultural heritage. 

Regarding the idea brought up in class about the artists that resist categorization (be it from situating themselves as anti-establishment or as thinking of their work as something other than “art”) and the choice to include them or not in a  cultural or art ontology: I think I may have vaguely mentioned one of the PDP presentations as relevant.  In fact, it was Stewart Campbell‘s “Eugène Atget & The Digital Archive.”  His basic premise: MoMA canonized Atget’s photographs as art photography by selecting only limited number of the works in its Atget collection for its digital collection and thus creating a selction bias–flawed works are not represented, e.g., animal photographs criticized by Berenice Abbott.  Furthermore, Atget produced his work for commercial purposes, and did not position himself as an artist.  Further information can be found in Campbell’s abstract (scroll down).

Related to our discussion of ontologies last week was Alexandre Monnin’s session IV presentation, “What is a Tag: Digital Artifacts as Hermeneutical Devices.”  Those curious about the relationship of philosophy to the Internet, specifically ontologies, may want to check out Monnin’s thesis proposal.  At one point referencing George Lakoff in the idea that classification is intimately related to power, Monnin examined the idea and function of the tag and an its application as an interpretive device.  He began by defining a tag as a “digital equivalent of a real-life tag–a blank space with digital string attaching it to an item.”  This definition in place, he continued to argue that many tags on the Web aren’t tags, but keywords or authorized vocabularies–an interesting point to us library types who typically do strive to use such applications in a more standardized and consistent way.   Richard Newman’s MOAT (Meaning of the Tag) ontology was also discussed, as was Dbpedia, and commontag.org.  More information and links can be found on Monnin’s webpage.

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