“Linking Venus”. New Technologies of Memory and the Reconfiguration of Space at the Warburg Library
The Hamburg art historian Aby Warburg’s (1866-1929) idea of Kulturwissenschaft lends itself to interesting reflections in the context of what, in digital humanities, we call today the technology of linking and the visualization of complex systems (Manovich 2009; Lima 2011; Manovich 2012). Numerous are the affinities between Warburg’s method of work and the visual developments of semantic web, starting from the idea of connecting discrete areas. This suggests that digital technologies could enhance the resources of the Warburg Library and iconographic database in ways that could not only reflect but also expand the original plan of his founder. This article will concern the potential reconfiguration, or “remapping”, of the Warburg’s Library resources in the digital environment and anticipates further developments. The main questions we will address are, first, how the “narrative space” of the Library can be “remediated” (Bolter/Grusin 2001) through new techniques of visualization, and, second, how Linked Data and new techniques of visualization can support, and hopefully augment, Warburg’s approach to cultural history. The article concludes with a case study, the mythological figure of Venus: its presence in the Library and iconographic classification, its potential for linking and visualizing as well as the anticipated impact of such approach on the process of knowledge production and on scholarly research.
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