Databases Becoming a New Genre in Technology

From the article, “Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives, written by Ed Folsom‘We are coming to recognize, then, gradually but inevitably, that database itself is becoming a new genre, the genre of the twenty-first century. Its development may turn out to be the most significant effect computer culture will have on the literary world, because literary genres have always been tools, families of technologies for exploring the realms of verbal representation as it moves from the lyrical to the narrative to the referential, from vision to action, from romance to comedy to satire to tragedy, from story to play to poem to essay, with all of the subgroups and various meldings that genre theory has spawned over the centuries” (Folsom). In the world today, the computer media, and the way everything from books to archives are becoming digitalized. So the question of the day is, are databases a new genre in the world of media and computers? Are archives even close to becoming a new genre, too? Hmmm.

For me, this question are both yes and no. Databases are there to help look up old and new articles, etc. With archives we can find old and new books, poems, etc, but archives, and databases are two very different medias that are either digital now, or still within a text format. So are we in the midst of having a new genre on our hands? In the words of Folsom, “Archive and database do share a desire for completeness (though that desire can be and often is subverted by those who want to control national or institutional memories), but the physicality of archive makes it essentially different from database. There will always be more physical information in an archive than in a database, just as there will always be more malleable and portable information in a database than in an archive” (Folsom). I think that databases, and archives are both becoming a competition into oneself; will these two very contrasting medias become one, one day? Folsom argues within his article, “Database as Genre: The Epic transformation of Archives,” that Lev Manovich, who writes on digital media ruining text explains that the database, “is the enemy of narrative, threatening it at every sentence, always shimmering, accessible, there (Manovich). With our books and other texts going into the digital world of the computer, we are seeing more and more people arguing and disputing over how it is ruining the books that were once on paper, but now are in the archives and databases, never to be seen again because of how many books and texts are backed up into the system of the database or of the archive. Databases are becoming their own genre because of how we have everything going back into this system; we (the world), see and do it everyday with putting old books from authors from centuries ago, and even authors in today’s world going back into the archives and databases. Even though people think that these databases and archives are saving the texts, other people see it as destroying and forgetting about some of the greatest books, poems, and novels, and throwing it all away by putting them away for good.

So, the conclusion of this blog is that, for me, I think databases are becoming their own genre from how huge and how drastically everything is being put away into these databases everyday, every month, every year. We are seeing the texts that we once used on a daily basis, going back into the technology that is being changed constantly. Databases are becoming their own genre, and will become a major dispute between author and technology in years to come because databases are making it public for anyone to see, and this is making people mad and upset; text once used to be the “thing,” and now we are seeing it as just something of the past, while databases are the new genre of the world right now in today’s society and communities.

Ed Folsom


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ladybartleby
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 20:53:19

    You pose the question of whether or not the database is becoming a new genre. As you mention, one of the arguments against this is the archive. Like a database an archive hosts a multitude of work; but one is digital and one is physical. The mode of discourse is the distinguishing feature. I might argue also that (and maybe this is due to physical limitations) that an archive cannot stretch as far as a database can; it cannot hold near as much. So in thinking about database as a genre I pose that we consider this, is the database different enough to warrant a new genre? Does the ability to make essentially unlimited connections, hold unlimited amounts of information, and access all of this in seconds make a new genre? I personally see the database as an all encompassing genre, not a genre among many. The database is THE genre, it holds everything else within its system.

    You also mention the argument over transferring books and other physical text to the databases. Like you said, many people feel threatened by the database in regard to books. But why can’t the same text exist both physically and digitally? Just because something is put in a database or is transferred to the internet does not mean it can’t be found anywhere else. I think people will keep their books AND take part in the database. I know I will.


  2. brianna2393
    Oct 04, 2012 @ 02:24:54

    I really like your quote at the beginning of your blog post. I think it’s powerful, and really encompasses the general feel of your post. I also agree with you in that databases are taking over in prevalence. I find particular interest in your statement that databases will be a “dispute between author and technology for years to come.” I think that is a very thoughtful and true statement. I think it always will kind of be a battle. Authors are cautious to put their work that readily available online, but technology kind of mandates it in a way. It mandates it in the sense that with all that information available, it is too tempting to human kind to both put it all in one easily accessible place, and also expand upon it in their own ways.

    In comment to Ladybartleby
    I agree with you in the sense that a database is just sort of an electronic archive. I don’t think it’s really a new genre, because the point of the database is to have all the works in one place. I think it’s kind of a melting point for genres.
    I may be wrong, but I think the reason that she thought of the database as threatening was not what you keyed in on. I took it as a reference to having their work readily available like that. Authors don’t want their work out there for free, easily stolen, easily copied, and easily remixed. It seemed to me more like you were thinking along the lines of it threatening the literal texts.


  3. Trackback: Databases Becoming a New Genre in Technology « brianna2393

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