Database and Algorithms: Film’s New Media Language

In Database as Symbolic Form Lev Manovich mentions Vertov as dealing in the realm of ‘database cinema’.

Where a database is a collection of  individual items one can view, navigate, search.

Where every item has the same significance as any other

An anti-narrative. A collection. NOT a story.

In contrast to databases, Manovich discusses algorithms as narratives. An algorithm in a video game is the hidden logic one executes (perhaps grows to anticipate) in order to produce a certain outcome, most likely to ‘win’.

He furthers that while databases represent the world as a list of items which it REFUSES to order; algorithms create a cause and effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items and are comparable to ‘narrative’.

After watching a clip from Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, what do we make of Manovich (and Vertov’s for that matter) claim that Kino-Eye is a cinema of database?

In the case of Man with a Movie Camera, Manovich focuses on the database that Elizaveta Svilova works within, editing. Yet he describes this as algorithm. And this ‘creating trajectory through database’ as ‘the very method of the film’. Is this tool of ‘perception’ an ’empirical epistemology’ or something else?

Is this new cinematic language of ‘effects’ still considered narrative?

How can we as artists continue to thrive in the world of new media by merging database and narrative?


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