Administrator’s Note: This week’s post, the last of this semester, is by Randolph Williams and it focuses our attention on theories of the narrative as related to New Media.
“In computer science, 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.”
Lev Manovich, believes that the database form has replaced the narrative as new media favors this form over others. New media is defined through objects borne from the computer age. This database form is problematic because it creates a rift in the way human culture has previously stored information. Previously, humans have constructed ways to store and display information that allow a viewer to gauge its significance within its context. The new media database not only allows for information to be pulled out of context, but also allows for information to be altered at any given moment. A continuous alteration of a database destroys the idea of a beginning, middle and end. The organization of the information is rendered arbitrary, because the user is aware that it is always being altered, and never truly complete.
“To qualify as a narrative, a cultural object has to satisfy a number of criteria, which literary scholar Mieke Bal defines as follows: it should contain both an actor and a narrator; it also should contain three distinct levels consisting of the text, the story, and the fabula; and its ‘contents’ should be a series of connected events caused or experienced by actors.”
Manovich then describes the reinvention of the narrative through computer games. These games rely on algorithms to guide the user through the beginning, middle and end. Through Manovich’s description an algorithm is one’s objective, this objective is pre-programmed and is not altered. This is the predominant existence of the narrative in new media, and in a way bridges the gap between old and new society.
I believe that Manovich’s assessment of the way humans store information is an apt one, however, it seems that he believes that mankind doesn’t have the capacity to describe and adapt to the database. Although the digital age has in some ways rendered the hard copy obsolete, and has allowed for a flood of half truths to be given significance through the Internet, I believe that too much information is better than none. As literates, it is our responsibility to assess all information to find our truth.