Mayan art expressed a different symbolic form – one that mixed realism with a cosmic, temporal frame
UVA MDST 3703 Database as Symbolic Form 2012-10-02
Database as Symbolic Form Prof. Alvarado MDST 3703/7703 2 October 2012
Review• Ayers’ experiment is to create an online essay that takes advantage of being digital – Use of hypertext – Direct access to supporting primary and secondary sources• Does it succeed? – Why or why not?
Missed Opportunities• Does not resolve the tension between database and narrative – And does not exploit mediating structures – e.g. the categories• Possible hindrances: – Conservative nature of historians – Hypertext theory tends to conflate the stack of scholarship
The Stack of ScholarshipARGUMENTS ESSAYS HYPERTEXT Work, Programs,MAGIC MIDDLE Memory Maps, etc.COLLECTIONS LIBRARIES DATABASES
But how are the conflicting requirements between database and narrative to be mediated? What is a good example?
Vertov, theorized by Manovich, gives us a starting point
Lev Manovich is professor of Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego, U.S. and European Graduate Schoolin Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he teaches new media art. A native Russian, Manovich worked in the software industry before turning to academia.
David Abelevich Kaufman (akaDziga Vertov) was a Sovietpioneer of documentary film,newsreel director and cinematheorist.
Let’s begin with structuralism(related to semiotics and semiology, the study of “signs”)
Structuralism is a theory culture Culture comprises the products of humanlabor – intellectual and physical -- as well asthe psychological and social formations that make this labor possible**for these, too, are partly created by human labor
The visible products of human culture – works of art, language, institutions, etc. – are the results of hidden structures that generate visible behaviors The best example of this is languageOur speech – the observable part of language – is governed by grammar, or structure, ahidden set of codes and rules that exist in the brain and shared by a community
As with language, cultural structures consist ofcategories whose meanings derive from their positionand contrast with other terms For example, phonemes are joined in sequences to form words or parts of speech
Structures are called paradigmatic Sequences are called syntagmaticParadigm and Syntagm are like the Xand Y axes in a geometry of culture …
Paradigm and syntagm can be used to describe things like food and fashionEach “system” has a paradigmatic code that is“executed” to generate syntagmatic products
Paradigm / Syntagm PARADIGM SYNTAGM• The level of “structure” • The level of “events”• Elements • Sequences• Spatial • Temporal• Order does not matter • Order matters• Meaning determined by • Meaning determined by contrasts between what could have been said elements as much as by what has been said “execution” or “performance”
Structuralism defines a Stack of Culture EVENT (syntagm) PERFORMANCE (following rules) STRUCTRE (paradigm)
Structuralism can be used to describe themedia forms studied and created by scholars Books and paintings, for example, are syntagmatic expressions of cultural paradigmsHowever, these cultural forms present only syntagm, not paradigm
The lintel depicts an actual blood-letting rite that took place on 26October 709.King Shield Jaguar is shown holdinga torch as Queen Lady Xoc draws abarbed rope through her piercedtongue.The surrounding text locates theevent within the Mayan calendarsystem.The paradigmatic basis of this artis what cultural archaeologistsseek to reconstruct Yaxchilan lintel 24
Digital media are differentParadigm can be exposed as well This is a big deal
In other words, when an artist creates a story, painting, or film, the paradigmaticparts – notes, index cards, raw footage -- are usually lost Thrown away or in the head But with digital media, this stuff becomes part of the work itself
In a game like Civilization IV, the “Civilopedia” governs playThe “board” is the interface to the database
In a game like Skyrim, the databaseunderlies all decisions
Playing the game is interacting with the database
The database is foregrounded and constant,whereas the narrative – the outcome ofplaying – is variable and ephemeral
This is true of most games – this is how youcreate something in Minecraft
Manovich’s argument is that with digital media, paradigm is both materialized andforegrounded, and this shapes how we think One effect is that digital media make narrative problematic (media determinism again)
Rationalization Effects• All cultural forms are like interfaces to databases – Where database = paradigm• How we interact with paradigm is therefore like how computers interact with data – via algorithm – Therefore, behavior is algorithmic
Role of algorithm in computers • Connects narrative toInterface database, syntagm to paradigm – A set of procedures for Algorith working with a set of m data • Can be interactive …Database
An algorithm is a machine for generating narrativesTherefore, the traditional story – telling “the story” – becomes problematic
Narrative• Narratives oppose database logic – Order matters – There is a “sense of an ending”• The “database” is internal, unexposed – In the head of the author• The result of an internal algorithm – The author’s in the act of writing