Professor Cultivates Cultural Science in Arts and Technology
Multidisciplinary researcher Dr. Maximilian Schich has joined The University of Texas at Dallas as an associate professor for arts and technology (ATEC). He works and collaborates to converge art history, information visualization, computer science and physics to understand cultural history as a complex system.
Although the field is still hard to define, Schich says his multidisciplinary approach has a clear goal.
“It’s easy to say you’re a brain scientist or a novelist, but if you’re combining qualitative inquiry, visualization and natural science methods, you’re exploring an area of practice that has not existed before,” Schich said.
“My PhD is in art history, I use my consulting expertise with large databases, and I spent four years hanging out and working with physicists – but I still have to find a short and compelling phrase for what I’m doing.”
With new technologies, Schich looks at big data to find and examine complex networks and other “non-intuitive phenomena.”
“There are patterns that aren’t readily apparent in culture, but with the amounts of data that we now have, I can take a step back and look at the big picture. It is like looking at a coral reef from an airplane, only we are the polyps and cultural products are the calcium from which the reef is built,” Schich added.
This semester, Schich is teaching a course titled “Networks and History,” which deals with the massive growth of cultural interaction over 2,000 years on a global scale.
“Working with students, we acquire data, explore and use all means necessary to find and understand interesting patterns, and aim to present our results to both scientific peers and a wider audience,” Schich said.
In the cultural science lab within ATEC, Schich builds on his recent post-doctoral project in which he explored and analyzed complex networks in the arts and humanities. The research involves modeling and simulation with Dr. Dirk Helbing, chair of sociology at ETH Zurich, and Albert-László Barabási, Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University in Boston. Schich received funding as a DFG Research Fellow and from the Special Innovation Fund of the President of Max-Planck-Society.
Schich obtained his PhD in art history from Humboldt-University in Berlin and his master’s in art history, classical archaeology and psychology from Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. He also has more than a decade of consulting experience, working with graph data in libraries, museums and large research projects.
Schich is the organizing chair of the ongoing NetSci symposia series on arts, humanities and complex networks, as well as an editorial advisor at Leonardo journal.