Visual Arts’ Accessibility in the Digital Realm

In the last year, long-standing discourses on the digital representation and visibility of art have emerged as more relevant than ever before—may it be for the purposes of research and education, from a museum perspective, or out of a simple need to experience art. The demand for digital accessibility is evident, however, it is the barriers and opportunities to access that are crucial. Driven by deviating interests, the circulation of art in the digital realm is subject to different conditions and affected by multiple stakeholders.

Thus, it is the aim of this PhD thesis to analyze the reasons that constitute visual arts’ digital accessibility or inaccessibility, in order to determine what factors contribute or obstruct their accessibility. Besides, the resulting impacts such as the varying visibility of visual arts, the underrepresentation of certain research topics, or the increased user reach are of interest. In this sense, accessibility here is primarily understood as a condition that is shaped by various factors. Among them, the following are of particular interest: legal, economic, technological, and artistic preconditions and requirements. These factors can be understood as the Back End of accessibility, that is, conditions that regulate and determine the framing of access in the first place. The consequential effects of this framing are reflected in what I refer to as the Front End of accessibility, meaning the actual design and provision of digital access for instance through usability, mediation, or visibility. On the basis of selected and current exemplary case studies, these two layers will be examined in more detail. Within this range, I will address the perspective of the user, that is, researchers, artists, and the commons.