- Paul B. Jaskot
We are pleased to present this volume as both a celebration of over ten fantastic years of the Wired! Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture at Duke University and as an introduction to our new name and forward-thinking position within the Digital Humanities: Duke University’s Digital Art History & Visual Culture Research Lab. Wired! began in 2009 with the concept of vertically integrating digital methods of research in Art History and Visual Culture within all levels of pedagogy. Starting with student training—from first-year seminars, independent research, and senior theses for distinction on up to the professional and academic training of graduate students—our faculty and staff embed curricular strategies for mentoring students within the development of students’ own rigorous research. As our previous mission, re-drafted in 2017, stated:
“Wired! is a learning community of faculty, staff, and students. We engage visualization methods to prompt new approaches to pedagogy and scholarship in the study and interpretation of the visual arts, architecture, cultural heritage, and built environments.”
Such an ambitious mission was enacted from its inception through the significant work and commitment of faculty and staff. This work prospered originally under the indefatigable leadership and vision of Caroline Bruzelius, Anne Murnick Cogan Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art and Art History, the founding Director of the Wired! Lab. We owe much to her creativity, her energy, and her vision for combining cultural research and pedagogy with digital methods at Wired!, and I am pleased to thank her here for this extraordinary work and service.
Since our five-year anniversary, we have expanded in ambition and scope.
Our work, we believe, has made a real impact not only on hundreds of Duke students but also on the broader study of Art History and Visual Culture as well as on the practice of the Digital Humanities. This influence has centered on rigorous research questions and agendas, and we have chosen to highlight the expansion of this agenda in our new name: the Digital Art History & Visual Culture Research Lab.
This name recognizes the forward-thinking impulse of the Wired! Lab from the beginning as well as the increasingly collaborative vision that unites our research efforts. Our projects have focused on many cultural and digital topics, but they have especially explored three principal approaches to Art History and Visual Culture: the investigation of the object, the interpretation of cultural spaces and systems, and the critical engagement with various scales of analysis. While our faculty, staff, and students are engaged with many other questions, the clustering of projects around these broad thematic areas generates not only energy within our various individual topics but also an intellectual synergy among them.
This led to the establishment of a new mission statement in 2020:
Duke University’s Digital Art History & Visual Culture Research Lab is a dynamic research community of faculty, staff, and students. We engage and advance critical digital methods to promote new approaches to scholarship and pedagogy in the study and interpretation of the visual arts, architecture, cultural heritage, and urban environments.
We believe in the importance of such intellectual work for sustaining the humanities in contemporary society.
The wider agenda of collaborative approaches to Digital Art History and Visual Culture brought us together initially and thus spurs our development into the future. As a result, our name change and new mission statement reflect the intellectual and analytical directions that guide our pedagogic initiatives and increasingly unify our public-oriented research. Indeed, to signal these two equally important legs upon which we stand, we will keep the name of the Wired! Lab internally for our physical space and for our famed Friday afternoons of collaborative research and mentoring between faculty, staff, and students, while externally promoting the new umbrella designation of the Digital Art History & Visual Culture Research Lab.
Our Digital Humanities work on Art Historical and Visual Culture topics constitutes a range of approaches to objects, buildings, and cultural spaces (whether physically extant structures, representations in a painting or a drawing, or even imagined locations). In addition, our lab’s scholars have displayed an equally wide range of interests in diverse digital methods that themselves raise important intellectual questions about computational approaches to culture. From buildings to maps, objects to virtual environments, and cities ancient to modern, we continue to probe the issue of which digital methods are best suited to specific cultural questions. And, conversely, which intellectual issues central to computation might inform our understanding of the analysis of culture? The dialogue between the complex problems in cultural and computational analysis has led to highly productive results over the past decade and is also foundational to the challenges and debates that are relevant to scholars, our students, and the broader public for critical Digital Humanities work.
The dialogue between the complex problems in cultural and computational analysis has led to highly productive results over the past decade and is also foundational to the challenges and debates that are relevant to scholars, our students, and the broader public for critical Digital Humanities work.
Finally, we are excited to harness the energy that comes from our students, our research, and our teaching into the next decade of innovative work. As we reflect on past successes, we also look forward to many further contributions to intellectual life at Duke and to the broader community of scholars and publics. This publication celebrating over ten years of Wired! (and now, the Digital Research Lab) is the most public expression of our mission to engage broadly. It marks our belief in the importance of such intellectual work for sustaining the Humanities in contemporary society. Such engagement is possible through our core commitment to advancing critical digital methods in the analysis of Art History and Visual Culture, a topic on which we have labored with rigor and energy for more than a decade.