Both the Lev Manovich article “Data stream, database, timeline and Tim Wray article “collections as landscapes : part 1 – empowering spatial, experiential interaction” seem to be aware of the same thing. There are new ways of displaying data online that are not as rigid as the traditional ways of “containing” and displaying information. They even both describe a person using these interfaces romantically as “the flaneur.”

However, it seems to me that Wray feels that something much more revolutionary is happening compared to Manovich, and I tend to agree with Manovich. Wray presents this as a new way to organize data, but he only seems to describe new ways to display data. Wray says “A more expansive, liberating way of organising things can be revealed via the use of categories that do not conform to a hierarchy – effectively containers that exhibit flexibility and polymorphism : properties of union, conjunction or multiple inheritance” but he never describes what that would be or where it exists. Wray says “in the next part of this post, I will describe how computational techniques can be used to overcome rigid containment, providing a spatial organising framework for exploration” so maybe there will be more to it, but he has not addressed it yet.

Wray describes the Design Museum’s app as follows:

“The whole experience feels like your playing with a child’s toy, an inescapable puzzle game with the collection. Applying the many filters on the collection is a spectacle in and itself – tiles flip and spin, hiding and showing the objects from view as you narrow down to your favourite category, type, designer or colour.”

Even the language he uses to describe the app is similar to a traditional database structure that is using categories, or “containers” (favourite category, type, designer or colour) and a very basic database function “filter” to enchance browsing. He seems most excited by the interface or interaction that involves flips and spins, but this does not mark a change in the structure of the data.

This is just one of many way to view and interact with data that almost sounds like taking structured information and then taking the structure away from it. However, it is just a user preference and I imagine that most sites that introduce these less structure browsing interfaces will also allow users to view the site in a more structured way. As Manovich states “because social networks are used by people for many different purposes and in different ways, with the patterns of use varying between age groups and genders, no single figure (voyeur, flaneur, etc.) can capture it all.” There will always be multiple ways to interact with data, but the only thing in common will always be the data and there will have to be a content management system to store that data.

Creating interfaces that allow for “wandering” or romantically browsing collections may be very useful to some users, but it does not seem like they should be considered better or an entirely new way of organizing data. This can all be summed up pretty well with the Foucault quote that Valeria shared this week “it only gives a new place to see things, but it does not offer a new space to describe them.”

 

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