Institut zur Erforschung und Förderung österreichischer und internationaler Literaturprozesse
Knowledge Networking in Cultural Studies
Reichenau, May, 24-27, 2001
 TRANS No. 10: 
"Knowledge Networking in Cultural Studies" 
(since June 2001)

Narratives and Databases: Uneasy Couples
Herbert Hrachovec (Vienna)

Traditional archives conformed to a clear division of labour. Written documents, audio recordings or even videotapes were registered in suitable catalogues. While those indices showed considerable variations and ingenuity they were clearly subordinated to the more important aim of making access to the collected material as comfortable as possible, given the fact that catalogue records in an important sense remained outside the realm of their respective referents. A book's catalogue card is external to the textual body of the book itself.

Digitisation of archival holdings has changed the situation considerably. Databases and their accompanying search and retrieval systems take over both formerly disjunct functions, holding in evidence a given resource and administering various ways to access it. The erstwhile systematic divide between a cataloguing system and its underlying ``substance'' is becoming increasingly fuzzy as the ability to build intelligent searches re-constructs the digitised data itself. No longer is a catalogue a mere auxiliary tool. The dynamics of data modelling are exerting a growing influence on what used to be self- contained collection items.

To put it bluntly: The logic of data warehousing impinges directly upon the internal structure of the traditional repositories humanists care about. An initial step in their attempts to cope with digitisation must be to articulate the problem as clearly as possible.

Papers held at the conference "Knowledge Networking in Cultural Studies" are published in
TRANS. Internet journal for Cultural Studies, No. 10/2001

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