User:Alexander Roidl/essayonnarrativeanddatabase

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Essay

comparison between

  • »Database as Symbolic Form« by Lev Manovich
  • »New Narratives« by Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas

Most recent: Version3: The Narrative in the New Media

The Narrative in the New Media

Main question? What is the narrative in the new media?


Abstract

This comparison between the two texts »Database as Symbolic Form« by Lev Manovich and »New Narratives« by Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas investigates on how the narrative exists in the new media. As these texts propose different angles on how on how to see the narrative in the new media, I want to take a closer look how the narrative exists in the new media, according to Manovich compared to Page and Thomas.


Introduction

This essay investigates the question on how new media changed »the narrative«. For this purpose I'm going to compare the two texts »Database as Symbolic Form« by Lev Manovich and »New Narratives« by Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas. Manovich is looking at the topic from a media-critical point of view while Page and Thomas are approaching it as writers and storytellers. Manovich's text dates back to 1999, whereas »New Narratives« by Page and Thomas was published in 2011.


From the book to new media

The digital brought new ways to structure the world and new possibilities to tell stories, starting with hyperlinked texts shipped on CD-ROMs (Manovich, 1999, p.91 and Page, Thomas, 2011, p.1). While a book is read in a linear manner, the computer structures content differently. For Manovich this is based on databases, for Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas this is another way to construct and perceive narratives. All together both of them agree that the mediation of text is different through new media. It changed how text and images are created and perceived.

From the very first paragraph of the compared texts you can already get a sense for their differences and similarities. Manovich says: »After the novel, and subsequently cinema, privileged narrative as the key form of cultural expression of the modern age, the computer age introduces its correlate – database.« (Manovich, 1999, p.80). Whereas Page and Thomas write: »In recent years developments in digital technology have played a significant role in the transformation of narrative theory and practice.« (Page, Thomas, 2011, p.1) Both agree upon the fact that the digital medium has brought a change to how we look at the narrative. While Manovich describes a clear change of the narrative in the new media (from the narrative to the database), Page and Thomas claim the digital has only transformed the existing world of narratives. Even more, Manovich argues that the structure we find in new media can not be seen as a narrative at all.


The database

Lev Manovich calls the predominant form of new media the database (Manovich, 1999, p.81). He sees this as a radical break from the linear narrative for example from the book or the cinema. The classical narrative can't just be translated into the digital. Because the medium is different – it is so different, that Manovich calls the both of them »enemies«. The database »represents the world as a list of items«, while the narrative »creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items«. He sees the database as the enemy of the narrative, as they both claim the exclusive way of explaining the world, they are not able to co-exist. In contrast to that in »New Narratives« by Page and Thomas the underlying structure of the text in the digital medium is not really being considered. They still talk about the narrative as it was before, only with new possibilities. For them the narrative in the new media is a continuous and logical development coming from the narrative as we knew it before from other media. They say the new media helped to shape and proof the existing concepts of the narrative.(Page, Thomas, 2011, p.8) An essential point Manovich criticises about that is the incorrect use of the concept »narrative« in the digital environment. As he states »we have not yet developed a language to describe these strange new objects.« (Manovich, 1999, p.87) Instead Manovich mentions the database and the algorithms as the primary way to understand the structure of the new media.


The interactive narrative

When hyperlinks occured, a narrative could be constructed in an interactive way. Links could now connect different parts of a text, so that every user could decide on their own individual story. Furthermore nowadays everyone can construct their own story digitally. The two examined texts agree that a new genre of the narrative arose: the interactive narrative. Although Manovich is very radical with his database idea, he still admits that there exist hybrid forms of the narrative that can be transferred into the digital medium (Manovich, 1999, p.87). For instance he is talking about narratives that are created through computer games. With a game an interactive story can be told. That’s similar to what Page and Thomas say when they talk about hyperlinked stories as there is more than one way to tell a story. (Page, Thomas, 2011, p.12) Furthermore a narrative is never stable or fixed in the digital sphere – so say both of texts – the content can always be edited, adjusted and the result is never complete.

In addition to that, as Page and Thomas argue for a continuous development of the narrative, they describe how interactive narratives also existed before the new media. As an example they specify that one could also read a book interactively by looking up the end of a story before reading the whole.

It should be mentioned that for Manovich this idea of an interactive narrative is still emerging from a database. The narrative is created by selecting different parts from an underlying data structure. (Manovich, 1999, p.87)


The cinema

Both of the texts bring up a comparison to the cinema when talking about narratives. Page and Thomas find cinematic qualities in text, when talking about how movable images can become part of a text and the other way around. Manovich also takes the example of the cinema to compare forms of narratives. He describes the example of the editor of a movie, that constructs, just like a interactive narrative would propose, a narrative out of a set of given data.


Conclusion

For sure the digital medium changed the way the world can be explained and perceived. The two compared texts serve different explanations on the part that the narrative plays in this medium. Manovich is approaching the topic from another perspective than Page and Thomas. He is way more radical in his idea about the underlying structures that build a narrative. I think he is right when he is talking about database and that its form is totally different from those of a narrative. Page and Thomas don't consider the media-theory aspect at all. They just take the form of the digital as granted – what is somehow careless when dealing with text. But even though I think their approach towards the transformation of narrative in more hybrid forms is right. In my opinion they are right when saying that the narrative can have several new forms in the new media. Why can't the database and the narrative exit simultaneously?


Sidenote: The Reader

Inspired by these texts about the narrative I tried to play with the format of the narrative and database as an experiment. To gain more insight on the differences I printed an existing digital database and bound it into the form of a book.


References:

Version2: The Narrative in the New Media Corrections

* Reworking sentences
* Improve english grammar
* spelling
* repetitions / clear up things

Main question: What is the narrative in the new media?


Abstract

This comparison between the two texts »Database as Symbolic Form« by Lev Manovich and »New Narratives« by Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas investigates on how the narrative exists in the new media. As these texts propose different angles on how on how to see the narrative in the new media, I want to take a closer look how the narrative exists in the new media, according to Manovich compared to Page and Thomas.


Introduction

This essay investigates on the question how new media changed the narrative. Therefore I'm going to compare the two texts »Database as Symbolic Form« by Lev Manovich and »New Narratives« by Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas. Both authors of the texts have different backgrounds. Manovich is looking at the topic from a media-critique point of view while Page and Thomas are approaching it as writers and storyteller. Manovich's text dates back to 1999, while »New Narratives« by Page and Thomas was published in 2011.


From the book to new media

The digital brought new ways to structure this world and new possibilities to tell stories, starting with hyperlinked texts shipped on CD-ROMs (Manovich, 1999, p.91 and Page, Thomas, 2011, p.1). While a book is read in a linear manner, the computer structures content differently. For Manovich this is based on databases, for Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas this is another way to construct and perceive narratives. Though both of them agree that the perception of text is different through new media. It changed how text and images are perceived and created.


From the almost very first sentences of both books you can already get a sense of their differences and equalities. Manovich says: »After the novel, and subsequently cinema, privileged narrative as the key form of cultural expression of the modern age, the computer age introduces its correlate – database.« (Manovich, 1999, p.80). Whereas Page and Thomas write: »In recent years developments in digital technology have played a significant role in the transformation of narrative theory and practice.« (Page, Thomas, 2011, p.1) Both agree upon the fact that the digital medium has brought a change to how we see the narrative, but while Manovich finds the digital in a new form (the form of the database), Page and Thomas claim the digital has only transformed the existing world of narratives. Even more, Manovich argues that the structure we find in new media can not be seen as a narrative at all.


The database

Lev Manovich calls the predominant form of new media the database (Manovich, 1999, p.81). He sees this as a clear break from the linear narrative for example from the book or the cinema. The classical narrative can't be simply translated into the digital. Because the medium is different – it is so different, that Manovich calls the both of them enemies. The database »represents the world as a list of items«, while the narrative »creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items«. He sees the database as the enemy of the narrative, as they both claim the exclusive way of explaining the world, they are not able to co-exist.

In contrast to that in »New Narratives« by Page and Thomas the underlying structure of the text in the digital medium is not really considered. They still talk about the narrative as it was before, just with very new possibilities. For them the narrative in the new media is a continuous and logical development coming from the narrative as we knew it before from other media. They say that the new media helped to shape and proof the existing concepts of narrative.(Page, Thomas, 2011, p.8) An essential point Manovich criticises about that: He argues that the use of the concept »narrative« in the digital environment is wrong. As he states »we have not yet developed a language to describe these strange new objects.« (Manovich, 1999, p.87) Instead Manovich mentions the database and the algorithms as the primary way to understand the structure of the new media.


The interactive narrative

When hyperlinks came up a narrative could be constructed in an interactive way. And even more everyone can nowadays construct their own story digitally. The two examined texts agree that there arose a new genre of the narrative: the interactive narrative. Although Manovich is very radical with his database idea, he still admits that there exist hybrid forms of narrative that can be transferred into the digital medium (Manovich, 1999, p.87). He is talking about narratives that are for instance created trough computer games. With a game an interactive story can be told. That’s similar to what Page and Thomas say when they talk about hyperlinked stories. And there is no binary how a narrative looks like. (Page, Thomas, 2011, p.12) A narrative also is never stable or fixed in the digital sphere – so say both of texts – the content can always be edited and adjusted and the result is never finished. In addition to that Page and Thomas, as they argue for a continuous development of the narrative, describe how interactive narratives also existed before the new media. As an example they specify that one could also read a book interactively by looking up the end of a story before reading the whole thing.

For Manovich this idea of an interactive narrative is based on a database. The narrative is created by selecting different parts from an underlying database. (Manovich, 1999, p.87)


The cinema

Both of the texts bring up a comparison to the cinema when talking about narratives. Page and Thomas find cinematic qualities in text, when talking about how movable images can become part of a text and the other way around. Manovich also takes the example of the cinema to compare forms of narratives. He describes the example of the editor of a movie, that constructs, just like a interactive narrative would propose, a narrative out of a set of given data.


Conclusion

For sure the digital medium changed the way the world can be explained and perceived. The two compared texts serve different explanations on the part that the narrative plays in this medium. Manovich is approaching the topic from another perspective than Page and Thomas. He is way more radical in his idea about the underlying structures that build a narrative. I think he is right when he is talking about database and that its form is totally different from those of a narrative. Page and Thomas don't consider the media-theory aspect at all. They just take the form of the digital as granted – what is somehow careless when dealing with text. But even though I think their approach towards the transformation of narrative in more hybrid forms is right. In my opinion they are right when saying that the narrative can have several new forms in the new media. Why can't the database and the narrative exit simultaneously?


Sidenote: The Reader

Inspired by these texts about the narrative I tried to play with the format of the narrative and database as an experiment. To gain more insight on the differences I printed an existing digital database and bound it into the form of a book.


References:

Version1 – Corrections: Steve

Comments by Steve:

To Do: 
* spellcheck
* clear Abstract + Introduction
* Harvard citation
* clear conclusion

* say it direct: no comment like is interesting
* Explain the differences in more detail
** Manovich: Digital break
** Page & Thomas: Continuity
* make clear in the first paragraph what is at stake
* In »New Narratives« (what is this?) -> explain…
* Paragraph with reader
* Bibliography

The Narrative in the New Media

Main question? What is narrative in the new media?

This essay investigates on the question how new media changed the narrative. Therefore I'm going to compare the two texts »Database as Symbolic Form« by Lev Manovich and »New Narratives« by Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas. The comparison is especially interesting as Manovich is looking at the topic from a media-critique point of view while Page and Thomas are approaching it as writers and storyteller.

From the book to new media The digital brings new ways to structure this world to the foreground. While a book is read in a linear manner, with the computer comes the hyperlink and the possibility to tell stories differently. For Manovich this is based on databases, for Ruth Page and Bronwen Thomas this is another way to construct and perceive narratives. Though both of them agree that the perception of text is different through new media. It changed how text and images are perceived and created.

The database? Lev Manovich calls the predominant form of new media the database. He sees this as a clear break from the linear narrative for example from the book or the cinema. The classical narrative can't be simply translated into the digital. Because the medium is different – it is so different, that Manovich calls the both of them enemies. The database »represents the world as a list of items«, while the narrative »creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items«. He sees the database as the enemy of the narrative, as they both claim the exclusive way of explaining the world, they are not able to co-exist. In contrast to that in »New Narratives« the background of the text is not really considered. They still talk about the narrative as it was before, just with very new possibilities. They see the narrative more in a way of development, that adjusted to the digital medium. They say that the new media helped to shape and proof the existing concepts of narrative. An essential point Manovich criticises about that: He thinks the use of narrative in the digital environment is wrong. As he states »we have not yet developed a language to describe these strange new objects.« Instead Manovich mentions the database and the algorithms as the primary way to understand this issues. Lev Manovich offers an essential definition for databases and narratives in his text that help for the understanding of the topic.

The interactive narrative When hyperlinks came up narrative could be constructed in an interactive way. Everyone can now construct their own story. The two texts agree that there arose a new genre of the narrative: the interactive narrative. Although Manovich is very radical with his database idea, he still admits that there exist hybrid forms of narrative. He is talking about narratives that are for instance created trough computer games. Thats similar to what Page and Thomas say when they talk about hyperlinked stories. And there is no binary how a narrative looks like. The New Narratives book describes as an example that one could also read a book interactively by looking up the end of a story before reading the whole thing. A narrative also is never stable or fixed in the digital sphere – so say both of texts – that the content can always be edited and adjusted and the result is never finished.

The cinema Both of the texts bring up comparison to the cinema when talking about narratives. Page and Thomas find cinematic qualities in text, when talking about how movable images can become part of a text and the other way around. Manovich also takes the example of the cinema to compare forms of narratives. He describes the example of the editor of a movie, that constructs, just like a interactive narrative would propose, a narrative out of a set of given data.

Conclusion Manovich is approaching the topic from another perspective than Page and Thomas. He is way more radical in his idea about the underlying structures that build a narrative. I think he is right when he is talking about database and that its form is totally different from those of a narrative. Page and Thomas don't consider the media-theory aspect at all. They just take the form of the digital as granted – what is somehow careless when dealing with text. But even though I think their approach towards the transformation of narrative in more hybrid forms is totally right. I think they are right when saying the narrative can have several new forms in the new media but does not really compete with the database – it can still exit simultaneously