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Nino Rodriguez on Tue, 29 Dec 1998 04:16:45 +0100 (CET)


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Some thoughts on Lev Manovich's article "Database as a Symbolic Form",
recently posted on nettime. In dicussing the tensions between narrative
and database, Manovich stated:

   "If the elements exist in one dimension (time of a film, list on a
page), they will be inevitably ordered. So the only way to create a pure
database is to spatialise it, distributing the elements in space."

My own sense, however, is that space is no cure for narrative. An
individual's experience of that space will inevitably be understood in a
certain order (a debate for the cognitive scientists whether narrative
is embedded in our genes). In my own work, I've certainly found that
even when it's explicitly stated that sequence is arbitrary, people will
still find a narrative (perhaps I've stuck one in unconsciously?).

Even if the database's space is virtual, an individual has to first
encounter the space from a certain vantage-point, and this becomes an
entry -- "How do you go to the space?". Wherever this entry occurs will
have a tendency to give this first encounter some kind of priority, even
if that first encounted is from somewhere deep inside the space
(virtually jumping to the center).

In addition to this "going to" problem, there's also the problem of
"where you're coming from". Not only in a literal sense (the individual
approaches the space from a certain direction), but also metaphorically
-- what are the individual's past experiences that inform this first
encounter with the space?

My intuition is that the only antidote for narrative is simultaneity --
a multitude of things not in a list, not in a space, but simply
co-existing, interpenetrating, happening all at once, somewhere but
nowhere.

The only problem is, how is it possible for our minds to deal with such
an entity?

======

Nino Rodriguez
nino {AT} pobox.com
http://www.pobox.com/~nino
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