Methodological implications of IT-applications

Hubertus Kohle

The history of the arts as a universitarian discipline has been subject to deep methodological transformations within the last decades. Having been dominated for a long time by iconography (and before that by style analysis) the discipline is now influenced by concurring modes of interpretation. Suffice it to refer to social history, gender and receptionist studies. Something similar can be said about the area which is covered by art history. The field of traditional "high" art has been vastly widened now including especially "new" media like photography and film.

Is it possible to evaluate the effects of electronic data processing on the methodology and field definition of the subject? The attempt to do that will certainly be quite speculative, because every possible development is almost entirely a question of the future. As an essential characteristics of the information technologies seems to be that traditional linear thinking is substituted by a linked-up thinking, we can suppose that what has been alluded to regarding methodological developments will very probably be enhanced. Art History will more and more loose its autonomous status and become an integrated part of the humanities. What has been called "Cultural studies" might foreshadow what is going to come. At the same time tendencies to transform traditional art history into "media studies" will have to be taken seriously, drawing attention also to the dangers which might be incurred by the dissolution of current standards and aims.

How will electronic data processing affect the subject more concretely? Different estimations might be given, the following ones being only more or less contingent and may be also embattled examples: