Aggregating scholarship in the digital era

An interdisciplinary investigation on the academic studies relevant to the understanding of the painting known as the Ship of Fools by Jheronimus Bosch as a show history


By Hedren Sum


From Vasari, Ripa and da Vinci (as observed through his notebooks) in the 16th century to the likes of Warburg, Müntz, Panofsky, Gombrich and Mitchell in the 19-20th century, the ideas of iconography and in particular the relationship between text and image in iconology has been has been argued, discussed and demonstrated across the centuries in many different ways. The question of (or questions related to) what is an image was also explored and led to a variety of different things, such as “pictures, statues, optical illusions, maps, diagrams, dreams, hallucinations, spectacles, projections, patterns, memories, and even ideas”. The development of computing brought in the rise of digital technology making digitalisation of different artefacts and information processing possible, with new digital formats, digital formats, interpretations and facsimiles of images, which further intensifying the question of “what is an image”. Today, the multiplicity of images also suggest the multiplication in access, searching, discovery, learning, research, publication, dissemination of knowledge with new “ideas of imagery” in the forms of interface, “infosphere”, and “intraface” created. Using the painting, Ship of Fools, by Jheronimus Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516) as the key object of study, my PhD research will centre around two key questions relating to aggregating of scholarship of a painting as an image, and ways of seeing, sensing and understanding paintings: (1) How scholarship of a painting as an image is aggregated then and now in the digital era? (2) How a painting can be understood and what the understanding of a painting means then and now in the digital era? With nothing in his own words, and little was known about him, scholarship about Bosch’s personality were mainly done through his survived works (or works attributed to him). His paintings were also often compared, juxtaposed and quoted among his own paintings, and to others from Bruegel in the 16th century to 17th century Japanese gothic paintings, 20th century Salvador Dali, other genres of art in music, dance and film, and cross disciplinary into the humanities. I will adopt an interdisciplinary approach in my research from the fields of art history, information science, computer science and psychology (of art and aesthetics), which will include topics on iconological analysis, ontology and metadata framework, digital models and interfaces for aggregating scholarship, and visual perception and digital aesthetic experiences of digital scholarship aggregation.

Keywords: Iconology; digital forms of scholarship aggregation; digital aesthetics; multiplicity of image; Jheronimus Bosch; Ship of Fools

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