[NetBehaviour] Exploring Tate Art Open Data 2

Pall Thayer pallthay at gmail.com
Mon Feb 10 02:01:23 CET 2014

I haven't read everything above but just want to throw this in there...
data is a human-organized thing but it's machine-influenced. It represents
humans trying to organize information as machine. If you've every had to
construct a relational database you'll understand. You have to pretend to
be a machine. You have to ask yourself questions like, "How would I
associate this information with that information without understanding the
information?" If you do it really well, none of the human-readable
information will matter at all. It's just fluff.

We're just fluff.

On Sun, Feb 9, 2014 at 7:19 PM, Rob Myers <rob at robmyers.org> wrote:

> On 09/02/14 03:15 PM, Michael Szpakowski wrote:
> > This seems a measured and fair response. I wasn't having a pop - rather
> > rehearsing my perplexities out loud..
> Yes that's how I took it.
> > I *do* think there are some further issues, especially in the case of
> > historical collections, about what is *available* for the data to be
> > extracted from -
> Certainly this is a visualisation of "the world as seen from the Tate
> collection".
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Steinberg_New_Yorker_Cover.png
> And the Tate Collection contains...the art collected by the Tate over
> the years under changing curatorial fashion and competence (contrast
> post-Impressionism in French collections and Action Painting in American
> collections with the examples of each in the Tate and it's not even funny).
> I'm not claiming more in these posts. But I didn't start by positively
> articulated my assumptions about the nature and limits of what I am
> doing. I should have done that.
> Moving beyond the Tate, one of my next projects is to recreate then
> build on some similar visualisations of Wikipedia's articles about
> artists and movements. Which I can then contrast with the Tate data.
> There are a couple of reasonable questions here. Why contrast existing
> privileged institutions in order to (apparently) police historical
> consensus, why not try to build something new? And why take the
> pre-existing units of those institutions' art histories as the basis of
> investigation?
> Firstly this is provisional work with a political motivation. I'm
> learning how to do this (everyone is), and I want art open data to be  a
> success. So for these reasons I'm visualising a high-profile data
> release with a well understood technical and ideological structure.
> Secondly I'm working on techniques to discover commonalities and
> groupings of artists and artworks that do not rely on pre-existent
> imposed categories. The first part of that is going to be in the next post.
> > and this suggests the danger of circularity here:
> > "I've found no great surprises in the Tate collection data, which I take
> > as a confirmation of how well existing models have done".
> That conclusion disappointed me, though, because I was looking for clear
> surprises as they would be a means of validating this approach. I
> earlier described what work differences in qualitative or quantitative
> data from prior models would give art historians to do. By "models" here
> I mean art historical narratives rather than other data. So this is more
> "despite my best efforts different approaches appear to agree" than "A
> because B because A".
> "Tate categorized this data with these labels, and examining the data I
> found them" would be trivial. But when the labels are pre-decided, their
> relation and frequency can still be interesting. And if those labels are
> systematically mis-applied (as judged according to some external
> criteria), that is also interesting.
> I'm not trying to play fast and loose with a kind of quantum
> insititutional critique / historical insight that is the one if it fails
> to be the other. It's possible for this to fail in both modes. ;-)
> - Rob.
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Pall Thayer
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