Fostering Cultural Intelligence with the Semantic Web

Erik Nemeth of the Providence Journal recently opined that there is a current lack of taste and knowledge in the art world and suggested that the Semantic Web may be the right tool to help art collectors improve their decision making. He writes, "What the heck happened to cultural sensibilities last year? While collectors bid up record prices for artworks at auction--Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' went for $120 million in May--they were criticized for a lack of aesthetic judgment, especially at the premier U.S. fair, Art Basel Miami Beach. And cultural heritage took a turn for the worse as well. Cooperation on repatriation of antiquities was overshadowed by grim reports of wanton destruction of historic sites in Mali and Syria. With both contemporary and ancient art, the desire to collect and possess seemed to outstrip cultural appreciation. High-end collectors and cultural-heritage abusers alike would benefit from a boost in cultural intelligence, or 'CQ,' to grasp the interrelation of art, culture, economic development, and human rights."

Nemeth notes, "It's hard not to see the indiscriminate spending on contemporary art and the recent upswing in abuses of cultural heritage as indicative of a gap in cultural intelligence. But what can be done? Perhaps the contemporary art world and institutions for cultural heritage should team up. One solution would be to cultivate collectors' interest in considering the aesthetics of contemporary art while increasing their appreciation for cultural heritage. For example, collectors might benefit from insight into the cultural context that influences the creative process. To start, stakeholders in the contemporary art market and cultural heritage could work together in availing collectors of imagery of cultural symbols, such as antiquities and architecture, in a particular artist's environment. Emerging technologies of the Semantic Web might be exploited to link contemporary artworks to imagery of cultural heritage. Such a system could enable collectors to gain perspective on an artist's inspiration while illustrating the value and broader significance of cultural heritage."

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