Arts Future Book Talk at ARLIS


I got to take a wonderfully reminiscent tour of Leeds and Sheffield last week as I was a speaker at the annual ARLIS conference. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds and always get a bit over-excited about opportunities to go back there. This was no exception and I had a bit of a moment wandering through the Victoria Quarter and realising this was the first time I’d visited Leeds as a Dr! Don’t tell anyone because it’s way lame, but I did well up just a little bit. I found Leeds uni and my time there so incredibly inspiring. It’s fair to say that from the minute Griselda Pollock entered the lecture theatre that first day, I knew I felt at home. Of course I had no idea then that my dedication would prove so unwavering and for just a second the last fifteen years collapsed on themselves and I saw just how all of this started.

But enough of the nostalgia. This trip was also special because I’d been asked some months back by ARLIS members to come and speak about all things digital at a conference themed: Weaving New Futures: Collaboration and Reinvention in the Digital Age. And as testament to their digital savvy, there was already a Twitter hashtag (ARLIS2011) and a blog being populated with lots of content. The abstract for my paper, which was part of a session on ‘New Technologies’ was as follows:

Arts Future Books

This paper asks after the ways in which digital technology might impact both the form but also the content of the art history/criticism/theory book. Using the combined archival theories of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Friedrich A. Kittler, the paper establishes links between the meaning held in bodies of art historical information and the prevailing modes in which said information can be stored and transferred. In this sense, it asserts that the discipline of art history has been formed very much in dialogue with the archival technologies of photography and printed text. What it will ask therefore is what new archival technologies mean to the discipline and whether the art history book itself is an essential battle-ground for the future of art knowledge. The paper will look at a number of online art discussion platforms and the way in which they engage their audience. It will then encounter a range of innovative approaches to academic publishing – including the Arts Future Book project and series. Drawing these areas of experimentation together, the paper will close by asking after the types of art knowledge new publishing technologies might produce and how this might reshape the discipline.

Unfortunately for me I followed Catherine Greene, Senior Associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art, who spoke on ‘The Living Library’. Clearly this was total thought-porn for a room of librarians so she kind of stole the show! I shouldn’t complain really though, I was introduced as a ‘glamour puss’!

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