Alexandre Vanautgaerden (Genf/Bonn): Law as Culture: A Digital Project


This research project is situated at the crossroads of digital humanities, law, museography, and places of knowledge, such as libraries and archives. It aims to develop a digital tool to collect and organize the data produced by the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities so that it can be utilized by cultural operators and reach a wider audience. Through its desire to embrace a vast field, the work initiated and conducted by the Käte Hamburger Center, which is based on the paradigm “Law as Culture”, has created a new path in the field of the “humanities” – both in terms of geographical areas and the types of knowledge implemented. My current research is based on data produced by the Käte Hamburger Center “Law as Culture” over the last decade.

In recent years, several projects have tried to “visualize” research data to better communicate findings and to reveal previously unknown meanings that allow new fields of application to be discovered. One of the most spectacular projects is the “Venice Time Machine”, which was developed by the Laboratory of Digital Humanities at the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne. This project aims to extract data from 80 kilometers of archives held in Venice and to connect them to build new networks – human, economic, sociological, and architectural. Following the destruction of heritage in the Middle East, the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn also recently offered another important digital project: “Von Mossul nach Palmyra. Eine virtuelle Reise durch das Weltkulturerbe”.

The purpose of this talk is to provide a contextual overview that will allow us to implement our project, which is being developed in close collaboration with the Founding Director of the Käte Hamburger Center, Werner Gephart.

As the legal sphere is now regularly challenged by algorithmic practices and new epistemological premises of legal tech, the analysis of crucial shifts in the law is at stake across the board. My presentation will include three moments: I will first present an overview of digital humanities’ projects in the field of legal research, with a particular focus on the nature of algorithms. The second part of my talk will address the logic and functioning of algorithms within several legal databases in an attempt to better understand the “black box” of an algorithm. To conclude, I will present two digital humanities projects that are particularly relevant for the development of our project at the Käte Hamburger Center “Law as Culture” (“The Digital Panopticon” and “Digital Harlem”).

Curriculum Vitae

Alexandre Vanautgaerden ist Doktor der Geschichte und Kunstgeschichte. Von 1994 bis 2012 war er Kurator des Musée de la Maison d'Érasme in Brüssel, von 2012 bis 2018 Direktor der Bibliothèque de Genève und von 2018 bis 2019 wissenschaftlicher Leiter der Ausstellungen des Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. Alexandre Vanautgaereden ist spezialisiert auf die Geschichte von Büchern, Erasmus und Neue Medien. Er arbeitete mit zahlreichen Künstlern zusammen und organisierte mehrere Ausstellungen. So war er unter anderem für die Ausstellungsprojekte von Fabienne Verdier im Granet Museum, im Pavillon de Vendôme Museum und in der Cité du livre verantwortlich.

Alexandre Vanautgaerden war unter anderem Dozent an den Universitäten Genf, Lausanne, Bern, Rom, Chicago und Toronto. Darüber hinaus war er an verschiedenen Filmprojekten beteiligt und veröffentlichte Bücher bei renommierten Verlagen (Brepols, Albin Michel, Droz, Le Robert). Seine Arbeit "Erasmus and the Printers" wurde 2008 von der Royal Belgium Academy ausgezeichnet. Darüber hinaus war Alexandre Vanautgaerden Fellow an der Florence Gould Foundation in New York im Jahr 2001 und 2004 an der Foundation Marie-José in Brüssel im Jahr 2004. Ebenso erhielt er 2005 ein Stipendium der französischen Regierung. Er ist assoziiertes Mitglied der Royal Academy of Belgium (Class of Letters and Moral and Political Science) und korrespondierendes Mitglied der Royal Academy of Archaeology of Belgium.

Seit September 2019 ist Alexandre Vanautgaerden Fellow am Käte Hamburger Center "Law as Culture".