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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. Many new media objects do not tell stories; they don’t have beginning or end; in fact, they don’t have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise which would organize their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other.

database is defined as a structured collection of data. The data stored in a database is organized for fast search and retrieval by a computer and therefore it is anything but a simple collection of items. Different types of databases – hierarchical, network, relational and object-oriented – use different models to organize data.

The user experience of such computerized collections is therefore quite distinct from reading a narrative or watching a film or navigating an architectural site. Similarly, literary or cinematic narrative, an architectural plan and database each present a different model of what a world is like. It is this sense of database as a cultural form of its own which I want to address here.

Following art historian Ervin Panofsky’s analysis of linear perspective as a “symbolic form” of the modern age, we may even call database a new symbolic form of a computer age (or, as philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard called it in his famous 1979 book Postmodern Condition, “computerized society”), 2 a new way to structure our experience of ourselves and of the world. Indeed, if after the death of God (Nietzsche), the end of grand Narratives of Enlightenment (Lyotard) and the arrival of the Web (Tim Berners-Lee) the world appears to us as an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts, and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database. But it is also appropriate that we would want to develop poetics, aesthetics, and ethics of this database

popular multimedia encyclopedias, which are collections by their very definition;

the identity of a CD-ROM as a storage medium is projected onto another plane, becoming a cultural form of its own. Multimedia works which have “cultural” content appear to particularly favor the database form

A museum becomes a database of images representing its holdings, which can be accessed in different ways: chronologically, by country, or by artist.

narrative becomes just one method of accessing data among others

CD-ROMs and other digital storage media (floppies, and DVD-ROMs) proved to be particularly receptive to traditional genres which already had a database-like structure, such as a photo-album; they also inspired new database genres, like a database biography

Where the database form really flourished, however, is on the Internet. As defined by original HTML, a Web page is a sequential list of separate elements: text blocks, images, digital video clips, and links to other pages. It is always possible to add a new element to the list – all you have to do is to open a file and add a new line. As a result, most Web pages are collections of separate elements: texts, images, links to other pages or sites. A home page is a collection of personal photographs. A site of a major search engine is a collection of numerous links to other sites (along with a search function, of course)

the Web offered fertile ground to already existing database genres (for instance, bibliography

antinarrative logic of web

Of course not all new media objects are explicitly databases. Computer games, for instance, are experienced by their players as narratives. In a game, the player is given a well-defined task – winning the match, being first in a race, reaching the last level, or reaching the highest score. It is this task which makes the player experience the game as a narrative

The similarity between the actions expected from the player and computer algorithms is too uncanny to be dismissed. While computer games do not follow database logic, they appear to be ruled by another logic – that of an algorithm. They demand that a player executes an algorithm in order to win.

An algorithm is the key to the game experience in a different sense as well. As the player proceeds through the game, she gradually discovers the rules which operate in the universe constructed by this game. She learns its hidden logic, in short its algorithm

“Playing the game is a continuos loop between the user (viewing the outcomes and inputting decisions) and the computer (calculating outcomes and displaying them back to the user). The user is trying to build a mental model of the computer model

Chris McGowan and Jim McCullaugh, Entertainment in the Cyber Zone (New York: Random House, 1995), p. 71.

What we encountered here is an example of the general principle of new media: the projection of the ontology of a computer onto culture itself.

The world is reduced to two kinds of software objects which are complementary to each other: data structures and algorithms. Any process or task is reduced to an algorithm, a final sequence of simple operations which a computer can execute to accomplish a given task. And any object in the world – be it the population of a city, or the weather over the course of a century, a chair, a human brain – is modeled as a data structure Examples of data structures are arrays, linked lists and graphs. Algorithms and data structures have a symbiotic relationship. The more complex the data structure of a computer program, the simpler the algorithm needs to be, and vice versa. Together, data structures and algorithms are two halves of the ontology of the world according to a computer

It may appear at first sight that data is passive and algorithm is active – another example of passive-active binary categories so loved by human cultures.

However, the passive/active distinction is not quite accurate since data does not just exist – it has to be generated. Data creators have to collect data and organize it, or create it from scratch.

organisation and digitiation Everything is being collected

Once it is digitized, the data has to be cleaned up, organized, indexed. The computer age brought with it a new cultural algorithm: reality-> media->data->database. The rise of the Web, this gigantic and always changing data corpus, gave millions of people a new hobby or profession: data indexing.

natural language queries

orge Luis Borges’s story about a map which was equal in size to the territory it represented became re-written as the story about indexes and the data they index. But now the map has become larger than the territory.

websites using material from other sites , porno sites example, the same data would give rise to more indexes than the number of data elements themselves.

Database and Narrative==>> As a cultural form, database represents the world as a list of items and it refuses to order this list. In contrast, a narrative creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events). Therefore, database and narrative are natural enemies. Competing for the same territory of human culture, each claims an exclusive right to make meaning out of the world.

narrative-uncover its underlying logic – its algorithm.

Data structures and algorithms drive different forms of computer culture.

CD-ROM’s, Web sites and other new media objects which are organized as databases correspond to the data structure; while narratives, including computer games, correspond to the algorithms

In general, creating a work in new media can be understood as the construction of an interface to a database.

Jeffrey Shaw’s interactive installation “Legible City.”

Database becomes the center of the creative process in the computer age. Historically, the artist made a unique work within a particular medium. Therefore the interface and the work were the same; in other words, the level of an interface did not exist. With new media, the content of the work and the interface become separate. It is therefore possible to create different interfaces to the same material.

variability of new media manifests itself.

traditional linear narrative can be seen as a particular case of a hyper-narrative.

But to just create these trajectories is of course not sufficient; the author also has to control the semantics of the elements and the logic of their connection so that the resulting object will meet the criteria of narrative

Another erroneous assumption frequently made is that by creating her own path (i.e., choosing the records from a database in a particular order) the user constructs her own unique narrative. However, if the user simply accesses different elements, one after another, in a usually random order, there is no reason to assume that these elements will form a narrative at all

The Semiotics of Database===>>>

digital image-layers

New media does not radically break with the past; rather, it distributes weight differently between the categories which hold culture together, foregrounding what was in the background, and vice versa.

syntagm and paradigm- de saussure- barthes_> the elements of a system can be related on two dimensions: syntagmatic and paradigmatic.As defined by Barthes, “the syntagm is a combination of signs, which has space as a support. ” To use the example of natural language, the speaker produces an utterance by stringing together the elements, one after another, in a linear sequence. This is the syntagmatic dimension. Now, lets look at the paradigm. To continue with an example of a language user, each new element is chosen from a set of other related elements. For instance, all nouns form a set; all synonyms of a particular word form another set. In the original formulation of Saussure, “the units which have something in common are associated in theory and thus form groups within which various relationships can be found.” 18 This is the paradigmatic dimension. The elements on a syntagmatic dimension are related in praesentia, while the elements on a paradigmatic dimension are related in absentia

the database of choices from which narrative is constructed (the paradigm) is implicit; while the actual narrative (the syntagm) is explicit.

New media reverses this relationship. Database (the paradigm) is given material existence, while narrative (the syntagm) is de-materialized. Paradigm is privileged, syntagm is downplayed. Paradigm is real, syntagm is virtual. new media design process.the narrative is more virtual than the database itself.

interactive-selecting one trajectory from the paradigm of all trajectories which are defined.

Other types of interactive interfaces make the paradigm even more explicit by presenting the user with an explicit menu of all available choices. In such interfaces, all of the categories are always available, just a mouse click away. The complete paradigm is present before the user, its elements neatly arranged in a menu. This is another example of how new media makes explicit the psychological processes involved in cultural communication. Other examples include the already discussed shift from creation to selection, which externalizes and codifies the database of cultural elements existing in the creator’s mind

The psychological processes of filling-in, hypothesis forming, recall and identification – which are required for us to comprehend any text or image at all – are erroneously equated with an objectively existing structure of interactive links.

Interactive interfaces foreground the paradigmatic dimension and often make explicit paradigmatic sets.

Yet, they are still organized along the syntagmatic dimension.Although the user is making choices at each new screen, the end result is a linear sequence of screens which she follows. This is the classical syntagmatic experience. In fact, it can be compared to constructing a sentence in a natural language. t it follows the dominant semiological order of the twentieth century – that of cinema

spatialized narrative- all images appear silmuntaneously, New media continues this mode, giving the user information one screen at a time. At least, this is the case when it tries to become “real” culture (interactive narratives, games); when it simply functions as an interface to information, it is not ashamed to present much more information on the screen at once, be it in the form of tables, normal or pull-down menus, or lists. In particular, the experience of a user filling in an on-line form can be compared to pre-cinematic spatialized narrative: in both cases, the user is following a sequence of elements which are presented simultaneously.

A Database Complex>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>....

two essential responses to the world.

database is not new- ancient encyclopedias

(n--catalogues from early writting practisioners egypt etc??)

Modern media is the new battlefield for the competition between database and narrative. It is tempting to read the history of this competition in dramatic terms. First the medium of visual recording – photography – privileges catalogs, taxonomies and lists. While the modern novel blossoms, and academicians continue to produce historical narrative paintings all through the nineteenth century, in the realm of the new techno-image of photography, database rules. The next visual recording medium – film – privileges narrative. Next storage media – computer controlled digital storage devices (hard drives, removable drives, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs) privilege database once again. Multimedia encyclopedias, virtual museums, pornography, artists’ CD-ROMs, library databases, Web indexes, and, of course, the Web itself: database is more popular than ever before.

In her 1978 article “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” probably the single most well-known article on video art, art historian Rosalind Krauss argued that video is not a physical medium but a psychological one. In her analysis, “video’s real medium is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object – an Other – and invest it in the Self. of narcicism, --===new media - database complex??????????????????????:)

database-early computer art-minimalists- = according to pre-existent plans; they also created series of images or objects by systematically varying a single parameter.

john whitney--catalogue--One is tempted to read “Catalog” as one of the founding moments of new media.

much of the aesthetics of computerized visual culture is effects driven