26 Feb Digital Humanities: A Van Gogh Software Study Review
Explore the Software Studies Initiative’s Project Archive. Choose one to discuss and highlight the questions posed, the data analyzed, and whether any conclusions were made from the study. What would Stanley Fish say?
For this think piece, I selected a project on Art and Design data visualization. This project piece, rather than focusing on a particular data set, or the questions that could be posed given a set of data, focused instead on the ImagePlot tool. To showcase a possible use case scenario, while also demonstrating how to use the tool, the author of this guide choose to use a data set containing 776 Vincent van Gogh’s paintings (1881-1890). With the use of this software, the author was then able to sort these paintings using data factors such as brightness, saturation, and date by plotting them, based on two of these factors, along the x and y axis.
While I’m sure Fish would have found the visualization of Van Gogh’s work laid out in such a way interesting, he as I would be looking for the deeper meaning behind the changes that are visually referenced. Why for instance, do Van Gogh’s paintings seem to get brighter over time? What was the meaning from the author or in this case artist for the change in color pallet over the course of the decade? Were the paintings becoming happier, or was the use of color perhaps satirical to the content or subject of the paintings themselves? The lack of conclusions and insight into Van Gogh’s meaning or purpose leave the data lacking any real impact. I tend to agree with Fish in that when data is presented on such a large scale, it can only be an interesting correlation; without a closer interpretation of the individual paintings contained in the data set the data has no meaning.