Towards a Collaborative Cultural Analysis of the City of Rome


  • Public event without registration
  • Beginn: 26.06.2023 00:00
  • Ende: 28.06.2023 00:00
  • Vortragende: Workshop
  • Ort: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rome
  • Kontakt:
Towards a Collaborative Cultural Analysis of the City of Rome
The purpose of the workshop is to explore the state-of-the-art and the joint emerging opportunities towards a perhaps radically novel, collaborative, and multidisciplinary understanding of the city of Rome, as imagined, represented, and enacted in historical sources and modern data.

Relevant materials may include maps and topographic records from the forma urbis to cell phone call-detail records, texts from medieval mirabilia to ChatGPT, and images from Renaissance drawings to millions of online tourist photos. The workshop coincides with several large digitization projects at Bibliotheca Hertziana, including the entire photo collection and the library's Rome department, both among the most comprehensive of their kind. Together with the availability of modern sensor and social media data, as well as recent methods of quantitative aesthetics, network science, machine learning, information visualization, etc., our goal is to jointly capture and harness an as-yet unprecedented set of opportunities.

The workshop is convened by Prof. Dr. Maximilian Schich, ERA Chair for Cultural Data Analytics at Tallinn University and Wittkower Fellow 2023/24 at Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institute for Art History), and Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen, Executive Director, Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institute for Art History).


The study of the city of Rome occupies a perceivable percentage of publications in art history and classical archaeology. And yet, despite the existing cornucopia of materials and research results, the topic remains extraordinarily fruitful, as there is perhaps no other place on earth, which has been covered by visual and topographic documentation in comparable depth, breadth, and over such a long time. Nowhere else, it seems, is it possible to study the evolution of urban structure, and of the associated graphical conventions, with similar consistency and density. The number of detailed, more or less independently produced city maps and synoptic city views, as produced since 1300 CE, some examples going back to Roman antiquity, is in the hundreds; guidebooks since the medieval ages are in the thousands; historical drawings since the early Renaissance and historical photographs since the 19th century are in the tens or hundreds of thousands; and tourist photos from recent decades, as available online, are in the millions. To this one may add that Rome is also well documented and studied using much more recent indicators, such as the "honest signals" of modern sensor data underlying the new science of cities, the study of human mobility, or more broadly computational social science.

Seizing the occasion, we are convening two workshops at Bibliotheca Hertziana, one in June 2023 and another in June 2024, bringing together a broad range of relevant experts, to explore the shared opportunity space towards a novel collaborative cultural analysis of the city of Rome. The specific purpose of the first workshop is to establish and mutually understand what has been done, what is available, and what are the exciting research challenges, posed and enabled by the existing material. The second workshop, one year later, ideally functions to summarize a number of initial proofs of concept, feeding into a joint publication, such as an article collection, that can serve as a scholarly rigorous yet also a visually striking point of reference for a whole new generation of researchers into the city of Rome.

Both workshops, 2023 and 2024, aim to combine traditional art historical expertise and the pioneering and long-ongoing work in computational art history as established at Bibliotheca Hertziana, with newly emerging methods of multidisciplinary science, covering or harnessing cultural complexity, cultural evolution, sociocultural network analysis, quantitative aesthetics, computer vision, and generative machine learning models. The full potential of this combination goes beyond "more of the same", such as the reconstruction of another three-dimensional topographical model, enriched with historical layers and metadata. In particular, joint or resonant work may for example entail multidimensional cartography and eventually deeper understanding of the evolving, visual and conceptual meaning spaces that emerge from the large amount and heterogeneity of the available sources, as for example arising through knowledge graph cartography, or via embeddings using machine learning or compression ensembles. In other words: We can aim for a comprehensive understanding, not just reconstructing the city of Rome through time in 3D, but of the cultural evolution of collective and individual imaginations of Rome in all their emerging complexity. As such, the joint opportunity also aims beyond further institutional centralization in the sense of a single coherent time machine, towards a diverse ecology of perspectives, a democratization of data access, and an acceleration of understanding of Rome in particular and socio-cultural dynamics in cities more generally.



Monday, June 26

Tristan Weddigen, Bibliotheca Hertziana (BHMPI)

Maximilian Schich, CUDAN, Tallinn University

Thomas Hänsli, Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI), University of Zurich / ETH Zurich
Topographia Helvetica: Visualising the ‘“voyages pittoresques’” as Historical (and Archival) Landscapes. 

Florian Kräutli, SARI, University of Zurich
Linked Views of the Past: Mapping Digital Collections through Computer Vision and Crowd Intelligence [remote]

15:15–15:40 Break

Georg Schelbert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
The Utopia of a Research Platform for the City of Cities

Leonardo Impett, Cambridge Digital Humanities, University of Cambridge
Digital Art History and Critical Machine Vision: Reading Very Large Visual Cultural Data

General discussion
How to Define the Joint Opportunity Space for a Novel Collaborative Analysis of Rome? 


Tuesday, June 27

Alessandro Adamou, DH Lab, BHMPI
Using Knowledge Graphs to Revitalize Art Historical Legacy Projects

Pietro Liuzzo, DH Lab, BHMPI
Photo Collection Data as Graph? Connecting with Databases of Inscriptions from Rome

Klaus Werner, DH Lab, BHMPI
Adding Geospatial Relations to the GND ID of the Hertziana Library and Photographic Collection

Martin Raspe, DH Lab, BHMPI
Annotated Digital Historic Maps as Entry Points and Visualization Tools

10:40–11:05 Break

Mar Canet Sola, CUDAN, Tallinn University
Complex Dynamics from Simple Metadata: Artist Collection Lag in Museums

Petter Holme, Computer Science, Aalto University
Social Physics and Urban Dynamics

11:55–13:00 Discussion
General discussion
From Knowledge Graphs to a Network Analysis of Rome?

13:00–14:00 Lunch break

Andres Karjus, CUDAN, Tallinn University
Compression Ensembles to Disambiguate Visual Family Resemblance

Valentine Bernasconi, Digital Visual Studies (DVS), University of Zurich
A Computational Art History of Pose and Gestures

Jose Ballesteros Zapata, DVS, University of Zurich
Decoding the Expression of Light with Machine Learning

15:15–15:40 Break

Ludovica Schaerf, DVS, University of Zurich
Towards a Critical Visual Theory of Latent Space

Tillmann Ohm, CUDAN, Tallinn University
The Collection Space Navigator

16:30–17:30 Discussion 
General discussion
From Multidimensional Embeddings to a Meaning Space Analysis of Rome?

Wednesday, June 27

Giorgia Agostini, University of Florence & University of Pisa
Encoding Rome: Methodological Approaches for the Ligorio Digitale Platform

Elisa Bastianello, DH Lab, BHMPI
Ligorio Digitale and Travel Literatures: Sources in the Era of Neural Transcriptions

Kathleen Christian, CENSUS, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
The Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance: an update on the database in 2023

Ksenia Mukhina, CUDAN, Tallinn University
Learning Geo-socio-visual Attention Patterns in Cities and Museums

10:40–11:05 Break

Yan Asadchy, CUDAN, Tallinn University
Inequality in Cultural Points of Interest Based on Smartphone Data

Darío Negueruela del Castillo, Iacopo Neri, DVS, University of Zurich
On the Urbanity of Images

Jason Armitage, DVS, University of Zurich
Embodied Cognition in Virtual Environments

Guido Caldarelli, Università Ca' Foscari, Venice
Network Graphs from Archival Data

Final discussion
What’s Next? Joint Challenges for a Multidisciplinary Cultural Analysis of Rome?

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