What profound opportunities has the creation of  the “database”  provided.  As Peter Stallybrass (Against Thinking, 1580) reiterates in commenting on Ed Folsom and Kenneth Price’s Walt Whitman Archive, this so helps to “liberate (Whitman, or another author’s name) from the economic and social constraints that govern archival research.”  With such liberation, the arguments begin: classification, categorizing, “ownership of knowledge,” use of the technology classification of users of the technology.

However, this liberation comes with a price. For every new “toy” or technological advancement in the computer age, the positive and negative “forces” must comes to terms. If, as Leo Manovich claims (The Language of New Media, Folsom 1574), that database and narrative are natural enemies, then Folsom’s comments in deference to Katherine Hayles’s new terminology, the “dance” of narrative and database wins us over–in humanistic terms, preferring a dance rather than a battle.

Seemingly, the crux of the issue in Folsom’s response to Jerome McGann’s comments: “How do we design and build digital simulations that meet our needs for studying works like Walt Whitman’s (or any scholar’s)?” would be then to build the simulations correctly, user-friendly, and make them so users can test and challenge embedded hierarchies and interpretive decisions. (Folsom 1609)

As scholars, is it not essential that we question and analyze the development of emerging technologies as best we can, gaining the best possible outcome from their use? In other words, as Meredith McGill states (Remediating Whitman, 1595) “If we misconstrue media shift as liberation, we are likely to settle for less than the technologies can offer us.”

We are here to understand and explain; to make meaning out of the world (Janovich, 225), but also to properly assess and evaluate the limitations and possibilities of our new “liberating” technologies.  As we surrender to the classifications (i.e., database as work), we begin to realize the scope and magnitude of the task ahead. However, the only limit should be our imaginations; as Freedman (1601) has so aptly stated: “no less than Whitman, we are compelled to make imaginative response.”

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