Ed Folsom, Jerome McGann, and Jonathan Freedman are three researchers whose work involves databases.

Folsom is the lead scholar of the Walt Whitman Archive, and he believes that the database is the genre of the 21st century.  He lauds the possibilities of databases and believes that they can provide new ways to access and view information.

While McGann, like Folsom, appreciates the opportunities that databases offer, he does not agree with Folsom about what constitutes a database.  He argues that database requires a user interface, and that Folsom’s Whitman “database” is, in fact, a markup interface built on top of a database.

Similarly, Freedman worries that Folsom’s claims about the Whitman Archive are utopian and too optimistic, deeming them overzealous and “self-valorizing” (1600).  Nevertheless, it seems like he believes the Whitman Archive itself is a praiseworthy and invaluable resource.

I believe databases are and will continue to be invaluable, but like Hayles and McGann, I think they are only part of an equation.  They require interpretation, or narrative, to put the raw data together coherently.  McGann might also say that user interface is part of that crucial, necessary interpretation.

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