Museums and the Web 1999

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Published: March 1999.

Abstracts

From the Mountains of the Moon to the Neon Paintbrush: Seeing and Technology

Peter Walsh , Davis Museum and Cultural Center, USA

Session: Neon Paintbrush

Marshall McLuhan was fond of pointing out that new technologies changed not just those things directly and indirectly related to that technology, but all of human culture, and forever. Identifying these changes -- never an easy task -- was, for McLuhan, the first step towards understanding them.

The Neon Paintbrush will first explore the ways in which "looking" has always been different from "seeing" and how "seeing," in turn, helps create visual culture. Using examples from the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery, the paper will move on to show the dramatic changes new technologies have brought to visual cultures throughout the world, confirming McLuhan's theory of the relationship between technological and cultural change.

Moving on to the present, the paper will explore the changes that the World Wide Web is bringing to all kinds of visual culture. It will look at such phenomena as pirate museums, web-based art, the introduction of esoteric imagery, such as NASA photographs, into public life, and personal image archives on the web. It will explore how the web is altering such image-text cultures as television and newspaper journalism, biological research, museum presentations, historiography, and even the texts and images of private life.

Finally, the presentation will conclude with how the World Wide Web and related technologies are changing fundamental assumptions about visual imagery and are beginning to dissolve the traditional frontiers between visual cultures.