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Backwards Up Niagara Falls: Space/Time, Image/Text and the Biases of Information
Unformatted Document Text:  17 temporal processes are sampled, reduced to the ‘now’ of the visual instance or the news report, standardized within photographic units per second or textual units per inch. These operations - sampling and the manipulation of standardized units – converge to produce a potent cultural model with the rise of computerized digital technologies. For Lev Manovich (2001: 218-237) new media embody, distribute and promote a new symbolic form: the database. Careful to recognize the historical complexities involved, and the residual importance of narrativity within new media forms, Manovich argues that digital databases are nevertheless distinctive from their predecessors, and act as powerful cultural forces. Their most important feature, from our point of view, is their ‘non-linearity’, their lack of thematic, formal or other temporal development. In other words, databases organize and present knowledge as the relationship between standardized units distributed in space but related in time only by the operations of the database user. The database form is clearly at work in new media. In the case of the worldwide web, for instance, the spatial distribution of connected units can be global in a technical sense, linking server with server and data structure with data structure instantly and with no appearance of temporal relationship, except that established by the movement of the user within and across websites. The same can be said for older media forms which reappear in new media systems. In their study of on-line newspaper design Nerone and Barnhurst have persuasively explored the pre-eminence of what they call the ‘logic of the index’ (by which they mean database), where links to other pages have become the most prominent formal feature of the news ‘page’ (2001: 471). And even the novel itself becomes tied to the database structure when it appears in digitized, hypertext form (Bolter, 1991; Landow, 1992). Two key points emerge from the rise of the database. The first is that as a non-linear form the ‘logic of the index’ or database is based upon a default discontinuity between its constituent elements, unlike written or printed text – or the cinema and television – where a pre-determined sequential movement between elements is integral to the mode of

Authors: Frosh, Paul.
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temporal processes are sampled, reduced to the ‘now’ of the visual instance or the news
report, standardized within photographic units per second or textual units per inch.
These operations - sampling and the manipulation of standardized units – converge to
produce a potent cultural model with the rise of computerized digital technologies. For Lev
Manovich (2001: 218-237) new media embody, distribute and promote a new symbolic form:
the database. Careful to recognize the historical complexities involved, and the residual
importance of narrativity within new media forms, Manovich argues that digital databases are
nevertheless distinctive from their predecessors, and act as powerful cultural forces. Their
most important feature, from our point of view, is their ‘non-linearity’, their lack of thematic,
formal or other temporal development. In other words, databases organize and present
knowledge as the relationship between standardized units distributed in space but related in
time only by the operations of the database user.
The database form is clearly at work in new media. In the case of the worldwide web,
for instance, the spatial distribution of connected units can be global in a technical sense,
linking server with server and data structure with data structure instantly and with no
appearance of temporal relationship, except that established by the movement of the user
within and across websites. The same can be said for older media forms which reappear in
new media systems. In their study of on-line newspaper design Nerone and Barnhurst have
persuasively explored the pre-eminence of what they call the ‘logic of the index’ (by which
they mean database), where links to other pages have become the most prominent formal
feature of the news ‘page’ (2001: 471). And even the novel itself becomes tied to the database
structure when it appears in digitized, hypertext form (Bolter, 1991; Landow, 1992).
Two key points emerge from the rise of the database. The first is that as a non-linear
form the ‘logic of the index’ or database is based upon a default discontinuity between its
constituent elements, unlike written or printed text – or the cinema and television – where a
pre-determined sequential movement between elements is integral to the mode of


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