Cultural Analytics, Information Aesthetics, and Distant Readings

Lüneburg, Germany
Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (mecs)
04.07.2014 - 05.07.2014
Nicole Stöcklmayr

Workshop with Lev Manovich and Frieder Nake
Organized by Martin Warnke, Anneke Janssen & Isabell Schrickel

What can we learn from Information Aesthetics to understand today’s condition and potentials of media analytics? What could Max Bense’s mathematical philosophy of critical rationalism tell us about the objective reign of information and algorithms of nowadays? Are there filiations between the filigree vector graphics of the sixties and seventies to the exuberant image aggregates after the iconic turn? And: how could connections look like between methods of distant readings of abundant piles of pictures with very close investigations of their details? What would ultimately be a simulation of the art historian’s gaze by the means of digital computers? Could even art history become a branch of computer science? And: how will aesthetical questions be answered in the age of Big Data?

Cultural Analytics as proposed by Lev Manovich is a contemporary attempt to address such questions. Departing from the problem that digital image media brought about in the last decades – the impossibility to view all or at least a significant fraction of all of the images that circulate in the net – Cultural Analytics aims to offer methodologies for dealing with this torrent of images by creating visualizations and thus even more images extracting chrominance, size, creation date, information, redundancy etc.

A similarity to the historical efforts of Information Aesthetics is obvious: analyzing and generating images with algorithms using various image properties including complexity, redundancy and entropy. There also important differences: in the sixties, when information aesthetics dealt with images, the number of images to be analyzed and generated was relatively small because of technology limitations. Now we are confronted with huge amounts of them, and are also able to produce floods of images algorithmically. Cultural Analytics is also concerned with content of images (see and it uses visualization to explore patterns in image collections.
During the process of datafication images become data, data
becomes image.

We want to confront and compare Cultural Analytics with historical predecessors of negotiating the relation between data and images, between facts and imagination, between immersion into singular images and abstraction into visualizations.

We invite scholars from all relevant fields to submit abstracts of no more than 300 words (for a max. 30 min talk) together with a short CV (up to two pages) before 22nd April 2014 to A publication is intended. Acceptance notification will be sent out on May 12th 2014.

mecs is the Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), at Leuphana University Lüneburg.


Jantje Sieling

Cultural Analytics, Information Aesthetics, and Distant Readings, 04.07.2014 – 05.07.2014 Lüneburg, Germany, in: H-Soz-Kult, 23.03.2014, <>.