The database and narrative are enemies?

Lev Manovich’s “The Database” was interesting, but a little confusing as well; particularly when the work touches on database and narrative. To elaborate, Manovich states that “database and narrative are natural enemies.” I don’t see how these two are enemies, but what it comes down to is what is considered a database?

If you still have an old-school Playstation, and memory card, then this will sound familiar–hopefully, your save files from decades ago survived. When you boot up a first gen Playstation, putting a memory card in the respective slot displays the memory card icon, in which you can select and peruse through various save files of your games, just as you would a CD-ROM, flash drive, etc. The files will show various data, including: the last date that particular game was played; a particular characters name, usually the member of the party that was used at the save point; the last in-game location where the player saved last (i.e., “The Dragon’s Cave). This is useful information, primary because If I choose to not play a specific game for a certain duration of time, I can look at the data on my memory card and remember where at what I was doing in the game. So, the question is: how are they enemies?

Manovich states that “database and narrative are natural enemies.”  What does this mean? For instance, drawing back to the memory card example, the narrative–or game can only progress when I hit the power button, press start and go to “load game,” however, the option to quit playing is there. I can come back to the narrative when I desire, and that is all thanks to my memory cards, which could technically serve as a database; glancing at the save file–time, date, last location–I can recall where it was I last left off. So, I can’t see how narrative and database are enemies, if anything, they are working together.



One thought on “The database and narrative are enemies?

  1. I agree that it’s difficult to buy Manovich’s argument that narrative and database are natural enemies. As your example shows, they can work together. Maybe another way to think about the relationship between the two is symbiosis.

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