(So sorry this is late – this morning got away from me!)
The article “Why Collecting History Online is Web 1.5,” by Sheila A. Brennan and T. Mills Kelly, was a very practical guide to a project that seems similar to what I want to become of my final project for this class, in style if not in subject matter. They offer lessons from their mistakes and successes, which is helpful. I want my final project, in its best state (meaning, as it would succeed beyond the realm of this class) to be a sort of growing literary archive, almost an instant archive, of events and historical places and people’s experiences with them. I want it to focus on Atlanta, with a big, practical part of it being a calendar of all literary events in the city, that anybody can contribute to, and a sort of growing documentation of this list. I want to include an “On the Road” segment where people visit literary historical places and reflect on their experiences. My role in all of this would be as coordinator and sorter, and the things I learned the most from this article are the exact things I was a little afraid of: for this to be successful, I need to expand my understanding of how much work it’s going to take (especially if I am the only “staff member”), and if I want this to grow to other cities, which in my longterm plan, I do, I would need other, local support from those cities to really have the site be everything I want. I think I can do Atlanta well, because I’m local and can make/have connections to the right people here to help get this started, but researching other cities’ literary scenes and history would be more of a full-time job, so I’d need help, other people who cared about the project. Luckily my project isn’t dealing with tragedy or even recent history, and the group of people I’d be trying to attract to contribute or to read are a very niche community, so finding them may not be as difficult as it was for the national Katrina project.
In Lev Manovich’s article “Database as a Genre of New Media,” I found the discussion of narrative fascinating. He says, “As a cultural form, database represents the world as a list of items and it refuses to order this list. In contrast, a narrative creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events). Therefore, database and narrative are natural enemies. Competing for the same territory of human culture, each claims an exclusive right to make meaning out of the world.” I do believe this is true, that they’re natural enemies, but I think a large part of that has to do with control. The author of a narrative does not want to give up control over it; we have not even been taught how that’s possible. But approaching this lack-of-narrative structure as a new media can stretch us to find art in new places. I think the web’s method of organizing (and that of video games and other digital media) has started to trickle down into written forms, de-prioritize narrative, and I love to see this. Writers are challenging strict forms of plot and narrative, specially in Creative Nonfiction. Neil Patrick Harris wrote his autobiography as a choose your own adventure story. Christopher Ware’s Building Stories does away with the book format in lieu of something that physically looks more like a game. There are exciting things to come.
Here’s an interesting article on Ware’s work: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/666774/pdf.