Tag Archives: John Whitney

Space Race

The term database in itself always conjures one word in my head: Wikipedia. Used oftentimes everyday by NYU students, it’s one of the most extensive databases available and I find that in a since it is both a narrative and a database. Upon first entering the sight, one has the option of searching or clicking onto a variety of topics. But, once one has reached their topic, the data is always presented in a narrative style. If you wiki Beyonce, her page presents her life early childhood, to her breakthrough into music, a career with Destiny’s Child and keeps on listing data until we reach the present. Not only that, but at the bottom of most wiki entries, in keeping with a database format there are links to other pages of data, at the bottom of Beyonce’s one can access her discography or a little less related, one can access a roster of other Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Models.

In addition, the Wikipedia database can be thought of as syntagm and paradigm as well. When one jumps to a particular page, what’s in front of you is the model or interface that has been prepared.We see a finished product that presents as much data based on a particular topic. Thus the web page is explict. But, if one chooses to, they can can manipulate the text or data on the web page, making the imaginary real, directly affecting what’s in front of their eyes. This is why many professors and authorities feel that Wikipedia is not a credible source, because anyone has the ability to manipulate it. Personally, I’ve conducted searches where the results have been spliced with naughty words or personal attacks, just to see it anyone notices.

Something else I find fascinating that connects to the Wiki database is Wiki Race. Wiki Race, is in a way someone trying to use a database to produce a narrative. On Wikirace.org, one can engage in a game where they can click through successive links in order to reach a new target-topic. One example is Curry-Michael Phelps. The two topics are very unrelated, but when playing wikirace, one starts at Curry and links to different pages until they reach Michael Phelps. What we are left with is a series of web pages, that while they aren’t narrative, they still lead from point A to Point B in the way a narrative explains things from point A to point B.

On another note, one thing I found especially intriguing from the two class videos was the music. The video for Catalog shows a series of John Witney’s analogue work, but as futuristic as the images may scene, one might expect something very uptempo or techno-like. On the contrary, the music was very somber and classical. This immediately made me think of a similar phenomenon in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the legendary opening features dramatic and out-of-this-world images set to Richard Srauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra. Stanley Kubric, the director of the film, is known for choosing nonverbal music for the film because he didn’t want to rely on the traditional techniques of narrative cinema. Which in a way was forming a database between the music and the film, two unrelated concepts, presented together. Here’s a link to the films opening scene.