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|Title:||Objects and Contexts: Using relational image database construction and functionality to enhance the teaching and research of design history|
|Publisher:||Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (RIHSS), the University of Sydney.|
|Citation:||Computing Arts 2001 : digital resources for research in the humanities : 26th-28th September 2001, Veterinary Science Conference Centre, the University of Sydney / hosted by the Scholarly Text and Imaging Service (SETIS), the University of Sydney Library, and the Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (RIHSS), the University of Sydney|
|Abstract:||The development of richly indexed relational image databases provides a system for organising material, and a tool for correlating and interrogating image collections and accumulated contextual information. Many galleries, libraries and museums build digital resources to preserve, manage and give wider access to image collections. While much has been written about the technical and procedural aspects of such projects, the impact of these systems in aiding the development of research, teaching and scholarship is seldom considered. Digital resources are not just procedural artefacts ? they are not mere technological products. They are cognitive artefacts and the relationship between the way they are constructed and how they are used and understood is implicit. The structural principals of relationship, of one to one, one to many and many to many, are the basis of relational data models. The potential complexity of relationships, and layers of relationships, between bodies of information within a database system presents the possibility of mapping and exploring areas of knowledge, rather than merely collecting and presenting information. Contemporary historians have questioned single readings, or the construction of a grand narrative in writing about the past. The digital medium tends to reinforce multiple points of view, and the consideration of an object within a complex contextual framework. Within this paper these issues are considered in relation to the development of the New Zealand Design Archive, which is a virtual collection presenting the history of design in everyday life. Within New Zealand the lack of recognition and access to local design material has tended to reinforce approaches to the teaching of design that stress modernist canons of 'good design' and to ignore the value, particularity and influence of local histories and contexts. Addressing this historic oversight regarding local material is allowing the NZDA to build a more flexible and relevant model that might be of interest to other design historians and digital archivists. On one level the NZDA digital archiving projects might be seen as practical solutions to making ephemeral and dispersed material available for study in facsimile version via digital media. However, the information presented in virtual archives goes beyond mere reproduction, as the process of rich indexing and image analysis presents the viewer with different information than they would get from looking at the original in a museum or gallery display or even from a book. The methodology of indexing encourages students to engage in a deep and rigorous analysis of the designed object and its material and social context. My own interest in these issues is not whether actual is better than virtual or vice versa, but in the ways information is presented, interpreted and structured through digital media, and how these processes can lead to different interpretations and understanding of design, its history and the material culture of everyday life.|
|Rights and Permissions:||Copyright the University of Sydney|
|Type of Work:||Conference paper|
|Appears in Collections:||Computing Arts 2001: Digital Resources for Research in the Humanities|
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