An ultra-brief history of the techno-cultural development of the database

Interestingly, the birth of the relational database (dynamic and queriable with SQL) runs parallel to the birth of the notion of the writerly text and the conceptual shift of signifying power from the author to the reader of the text…. as Davids Gugerli argues.

Also read the Wikipedia article on the development of the relational database, that allows for dynamic information withdrawal, and on-the-fly recombination of various columns and rows.

This text is on the cultural significance of the database as primary form of ordering cultural artifacts that took over from the narrative that was the previously dominating form, according to Manovich.

The meaning of this probably boils down to this: the database favours the possible, the potential over the actual, the present. A database offers a collection of possible trajectories to be actualised in use, whereas a story offers one trajectory (and doesn’t even offer any other possible trajectories) Compare this with Gonzalo Frasca’s notion of games mediating possible futures.

Then, with a couple of extremely large steps: the web and specifically Google turn the worlds’ digitally connected information into one big database. But it doesn’t operate on the principles of the good old fashioned library anymore. Shirky explains why.

Tagging,with controlled sets of tags applied by specialists is a relative fast way to add dimensions to a database. Tagging with fuzzy sets of tags, appllicable by anyone, creates a lot of navigational, and contextual value in the extremely large dataset of the internet.

Cultural effects of the mutlidimensional flatness of the information on the web:

And as bonus: Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the world wide web) and Tim O’Reilly (major publisher on technology, in favour of open source and free software) discussing the past and future of the web.

Leave a Reply