The Little Database: A Poetics of Media Formats
Danny Snelson (UCLA)
As you read these lines, the Utah Data Center continues its process of deciphering untold exabytes of information collected by the NSA. This enterprise, like certain strands in the digital humanities and the corporate world alike, stakes its hopes for meaningful interpretation of the present on the parsing of tremendous amounts ofdata. Directly responding to these currents, I turn to the little database as an integral model for understanding our place in a rapidly changing information environment. Ranging from a private collection of MP3s hosted on your personal computer to a collection of poetry readings on a university-hosted website like PennSound, a little database is at once too large to “read” in a traditional way and, at the same time, small enough to be absolutely ordinary. Like the little magazines of the historical avant-gardes, the little database presents a dynamic forum for investigating the situation of politics, aesthetics, and meaning in a time of extensive technological change. In this presentation, I discuss a series of influential sites presenting avant-garde art and letters online, including Eclipse, PennSound, and UbuWeb. Tracing the transformative role of media formats, I examine an unlikely and contingent poetics that emerges through the use and reuse of historical works across the formats and platforms of the present.
Snelson will speak at the Digital Scholarship Commons VizWall as part of a UC-wide DH Junior Faculty exchange.