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.