Database as a genre of new media

Abstract

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. Why does new media favour database form over others? Can we explain ist popularity by analysing the specificity of the digital medium and of computer programming? What is the relationship between database and another form, which has traditionally dominated human culture — narrative? In addressing these questions, I discuss the connection between computer's ontology — the way software represents the world — and the new cultural forms privileged by computer culture such as database. I propose that computerisation of culture involves projection of two fundamental parts of computer software — data structures and algorithms — onto the cultural sphere. Thus CD-ROMs and Web databases are cultural manifestations of one half of this ontology — data structures; while new media narratives are manifestations of the second part — algorithms. I conclude by proposing that in computer culture database and narrative do not have the same status. Given that on the level of data organisation most new media objects are databases, it is not surprising that on the level of form database also dominates new media culture.

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Correspondence to Lev Manovich.

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Manovich, L. Database as a genre of new media. AI & Soc 14, 176–183 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01205448

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Key Words

  • Algorithm
  • CD-ROM
  • Computer game
  • Database
  • Data structure
  • Genre
  • interface
  • Narrative