Saturday, June 23, 2007

I, database

IMG_5551_1It's weird how it happens. I'll be sitting there and then all of a sudden I'll be hit with the futility of everything. Today it's my I have so many things saved in there, so many tags: shopping, government, coffee, media, music, podcast, norsk, activism, art, design, web2.0, photography, photos, photoshop, knitting, nostalgia, iran, iraq, oil, fansite, news, communication, consumerism, human.rights, stick.people, food, social etc. etc. etc.

One of the inherent functions of communication technology is that in using it it changes how you think. With the invention of writing all of a sudden people didn't have to remember everything anymore. You could just write it down and look it up later instead.

So how do databases change how I think?

It's a pasttime you find on the internet - collecting things. Doesn't matter what things. List them, index them, store them for retrieval later, possibly, if need be to recall them. Take something and collect all that there is to see and hear and know about it. The size of such projects are overwhelming. There is very little quality control, very little heirarchy, nothing to assure you that one particular thing is more relevant than any other thing, except, perhaps, the frequency with which it is linked to, and even that is misleading.

And instead of stopping for a moment to think about what we are saving and why, we continue to feed it because yes, in this day and age, it is possible to see 18,000 pictures of cats with their tongues sticking out and to know the exact date, time and contents of Kurt Cobain's penultimate bowel movement.

In this day and age there are far more indexes pointing to information than there is information itself. It was a phenomenon first noted about pornography, but which has since spread to practically everything else. When you link to something, you aren't creating new content, just indexing something old. It seems that the only things we really know are where to find information it if we needed to know it, even though we probably won't.

At least that's the case with my I have hundreds of links, all tagged and sorted. A large portion of them are things that I came across and linked for later, because I didn't read them at the time. But will I ever read them? Probably not. I don't have the time or the patience. And if I look at things that I saved a year or two ago, will they still be relevant for the same reasons why I tagged them in the first place? Likely not.

And how many links listed in my are now stale or dead? How many of them would I actually be able to retrieve should need or desire warrant it?

Why do I have tags called "estonia" or "packaging" or "ngo"? I have never once used them to look anything up. I don't even know what I'd find if I did. I can't remember why I saved anything under them. Why are "bibliotek" and "library" different tags? Why didn't I combine them in the first place?

There is no narrative, no logic, no heirarchy to any of it, and I can't blame a computer or a database. It was all of my own doing as I, like the rest of the internet, unconsciously work to immitate the machines and structures we use every day. Today I hate it. Tomorrow I'll go back to the same old same old, linking and tagging and storing shit that you or I will never use.