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John Grierson defined the term documentary in the 1920's before making films for the General Post Office(GPO). He dubbed this new genre a“creative treatment of reality”. His interest, like that of YoHa, was in a socially active aesthetics

leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will' 1935

Granton Trawler (1934) (http://vimeo.com/18434489)

Maternity: a film of Queen Charlotte's Hospital (http://film.wellcome.ac.uk:15151/mediaplayer.html?0055-0000-4343-0000-0-0000-0000-0)

Database Documentary adopts the view that databases carry the same seeds of creativity that early documentary makers saw in film. Both have a clear relationship to a form of factual truth that can empower, both have the capacity for propaganda and deception, both form views which are privileged by their author

The film director directs the eyepiece of the camera through the conduct of the cameraman and the editor shapes and cuts the film to create an agreed view for a set audience and the promotion of a particular ideology.

The database administrator also constructs views of the data that can only be seen by particular roles within the enterprise. In association with analysts they also produce queries that iterate over the data atoms to configure them into particular narratives formed from the enterprise’s ideology.

In the 21st Century, governments and other enterprises are increasingly trying to convince us of the usefulness of our personal data for the public good. (With the proviso that it is efficiently collected, quality controlled and managed securely.) This process, we are informed, will allow us to reap the various forms of value/ benefit produced by improving myriad forms of efficiency. If we think about government as a series of tactics, strategies, techniques, programmes and aspirations of those authorities who wish to control, influence or improve what we think of and do as a population, databases inform various modes of thinking, decision making and acting.

foucault-General features of apparatuses of security

Databases as a tool of health surveillance attempts to establish an equal gaze which we can think of here as a technical process of ordering population data so that the information can be queried. Anomalies become triggers for new tactics, strategies, techniques, programmes or for checking the aspirations/targets of government

Within the technologies of power, the database can be seen as an energy source, a motor of change or an amplifier for the progression of truths within the discourses that fabricate them.


We had noticed that when someone models, creates and implements a database about some thing that it changes the relationships of those authoring the system to the original thing it self. Originally we wondered if this was to do with the technicality of the relational database or something to do with some other interaction of a discourse, computing and the aggregation of records.

Data Entry reflects on a series of interviews with midwives

Two of primary questions were:

How do the creation and implementation of database management systems (DBMS) affect the conduct of the authors and commissioners of such systems?

How can people that are effected and represented by the abstract models of health embodied in dtabases critically engage with their creation? What follows are some notes created from Interviews in the Netherlands during the summer of 2011.

MIDWIFE. When I fill in the form it is very individual, and you fill out names. Who was present at the birth, who was responsible, but also who did the stitches in the vagina. You have to put in your name in it.

NARRATOR. Databases operate on us and through us. They allow new forms of power to emerge from the machine’s ability to push and process large sets of information into the gaps between knowledge and power. As databases order, compare and sort they create new views of the information they contain. New perspectives amplify, speed-up and restructure particular forms of power as they supersede others.

MIDWIFE. The consequences when you enter shoulder dystocia into the woman’s record, could be that for the next time she gives birth it will be a cesarean section. She won’t even be able to start giving birth naturally but will have an operation immediately.

NARRATOR. Creating a database throws a particular light on the items it records. It breaks the process down into discrete steps of re-ordering. The database compares lists and creates new knowledge from the relations that sorting produces. This new knowledge then acts as a kind of remote control on the elements it defined.

MIDWIFE. The time used to care for women is now spent administrating women through the database.

NARRATOR. A database can also be thought of as an architecture that holds a list in a particular shape while we ask it questions. Its lists mapping out a collection of objects into recipes for action. Just as buildings of the present contain the engineering of the past so a database carries with it the echoes and residues of its former selves.

Databases are the steam engines of information, knowledge and power rapidly moving through us, separating us, reforming us, folding us up into its parts. Its relations and queries picking us up, move us around and put us back down somewhere known yet unfamiliar. Population policing, health observation, remote controlling, truth amplification, knowledge machining, disembodied memories, extended minds.

The database is any and all installed into our masochistic home offices in which we subjugate ourselves before the discipline of its records and fields, in an attempt to take on a little of its power.