Is the WWW useful without a negotiation between databases?

The WWW has encouraged such a rapid accumulation of information that one of the pertinent issues regarding such information is how it can be effectively curated and discovered. Databases, I think, are therefore essential in making the WWW actually useful. Think, for instance, about what the Internet would be like without Google. I have vague memories of my early childhood (when my parents were still using dial-up) when Google wasn’t as synonymous with the Internet as it seems to be today, but back then I was only using other search engines to navigate myself within the WWW (does anyone else remember AltaVista?). Today, I can’t comprehend the Internet without Google, and it pains me to imagine the overwhelming plethora of information that would be impossible to find, unless of course I knew exactly what I was looking for.

Platforms such as Wikisource or Wikimedia, through aspects such as hyperlinks, allow their users  to negotiate various databases in the WWW simply and effectively. An article by Ray Siemens et al., which has been discussed in earlier posts, suggests “…as with the dynamic text, the hypertextual edition affords a type of intertextuality that produces a critical reader with a potentially more powerful grasp of that which is being read than one employing print resources alone” (5). Hypertextual social editions on Wikisource encourage interconnectivity between databases, and as a result offer to us an ability to negotiate the rest of the WWW effectively without relying on databases like Google, albeit in a limited way. This interconnectivity between databases highlights how effective reading digital texts can be for us, since a negotiation between texts outside the digital realm would of course be far more difficult.

Marjorie Perloff’s “Conceptual Poetry and the Question of Emotion” addresses Andre Vallias’s online project “TRAKLTRAKT”,  which consists of poetry, journal entries, diagrams etc. Perloff suggests that this project offers a juxtaposition of materials that are presented to us in fragments, allowing us to read the material with a new understanding, in a different way. Wikisource and Wikimedia work in the same way as “TRAKLTRAKT”, in that they present a text or media as fragmented pieces that can be put together in various ways rather than in a set, linear form. By presenting us with information in fragments, digital platforms like Wikisource and Wikimedia encourage a negotiation between other databases, and therefore, like Google, allow the WWW to actually be of use, rather than just an overwhelming informational abyss.

This entry was posted in Week 4: Text, Wikisource, Wikimedia, WWW and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Is the WWW useful without a negotiation between databases?

  1. Pingback: Symtext: Teaching and the WWW | The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes

  2. olivia.harris says:

    cstelman, I really like your points about the importance of fragments in the WWW. Fragments are absolutely critical to our use of the internet! Without a way of dividing the overwhelming amount of information available on the web into usable segments, the internet quite obviously would not have become as necessary to our daily lives as it currently is. This is where databases seem like the most innovative advancements in modern technology. If it weren’t for websites that allowed easy navigation between related resources then the how would we find information in “an overwhelming informational abyss”? Well, we probably wouldn’t. Fragmentation is productive in relation to the WWW because it creates more effective means for managing the incredible amount of information available online. This means databases can connect users to an array of tags that suggest links between fragments – connecting the user to the material they are searching for. One thing we must remember is that although these databases offer connections, they are not necessarily offering objective connections between sources. Databases are funded by interested parties, and use only a certain amount of sub-databases to gather their information. This means that although we would like to think Google searches the entire internet for our queries, it actually only investigates a limited amount of resources. Databases can offer valid sources, but they don’t offer all possible sources.

    • laura.chapnick says:

      Like Olivia I also believe that the form of the database connects fragments; however, I wonder how we would approach conflicting information from similar databases. This sense of dissonance would not connect the reader to one source but require him or her to actively compare and contrast sources.

  3. cleda.choi says:

    Olivia makes an excellent point about Google, specifically about how we need to take its omniscience and objectivity with a grain of salt. As a corporation, it is obviously a subjective entity, deriving the majority of its revenue from advertising. I wonder how a database’s funding informs how we view its reliability and/or subjectivity. Do we trust the Wiki databases any more or less because they are funded through donations?

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