Figuring out Art History
World population and the number of cultural artifacts are growing exponentially or faster, while cultural interaction approaches the fidelity of a global nervous system. Every day hundreds of millions of images are loaded into social networks by users all over the world. As this myriad of new artifacts veils the view into the past, like city lights covering the night sky, it is easy to forget that there is more than one Starry Night, the painting by Van Gogh.Like in ecology, where saving rare species may help us in treating disease, art and architectural history can reveal insights into the past, which may hold keys to our own future. With humanism under threat, facing the challenge of understanding the structure and dynamics of art and culture, both qualitatively and quantitatively, is more crucial now than it ever was. The purpose of this article is to provide perspective in the aim of figuring out the process of art history – not art history as a discipline, but the actual history of all made things, in the spirit of George Kubler and Marcel Duchamp. In other words, this article deals with the grand challenge of developing a systematic science of art and culture, no matter what, and no matter how.