How can anyone with any claim to scholarship spend time on something as seemingly frivolous and self-absorbed as a blog? To be sure, there is no shortage of dreck on the web but a weblog is no more and no less than a medium for written communication and therefore a useful tool. I have taken up this tool for two reasons, both centered around the utililty of computing for architectural history.
First, there is little understanding evident among my peers about the potential of digital technologies for architectural research. Our friends in history, archaeology, architectural design, literary studies, the social sciences, and even art history have begun to explore digital possibilities for their work with much more enthusiasm. So, I hope, this blog can help shine a little light on what architectual historians have to gain from computers.
Second, I want to explore, through writing, the possibilities of working digitally and the larger implications of rendering buildings in digital form. What is gained or lost in representing architecture in a digital photograph, or a digital model, or a database? What happens to our work as its publication moves from print to digital, and from the library to the web? To help understand these questions, I am beginning to explore the history of architectural representation in writing, drawings, and models to help me place digitization within our particular disciplinary context.
My hope is that short posts on particular digital topics–imaging, CAD drafting, database construction, for example–will, over time, develop as useful web-based reference materials for architectural research. I have posted several notes to email discussion lists on some of these subjects over the last few years, and given advice to friends privately, but this material is not widely available even though experience suggests that it should be.
Finally, I hope that the discipline of writing short public pieces on a regular basis will help me clarify my thinking on architectural representations and motivate me to push my research along. Because I work in a museum, I do not have a regular audience of students for testing ideas but a blog seems a fine venue for semi-baked notions that are not ready for a conference paper or publication. The very qualities that make blogs seem to lack seriousness (they are unvetted, spontaneous, and ephemeral) are the same ones that make them an ideal testing ground for new material.