I noticed on the heading above Wednesday’s readings that Dr. Sample categorized the database as “a special category of the technological sublime.” I gave that a little thought and have come to the conclusion that a database, if big enough, is indeed sublime.
I’m not sure how extensive Marble Springs is. I spent a fair amount of time on it and still had much more to explore, but I’m not sure if it quite reaches the threshold of the sublime. (In fairness, I did find the thought that one small town was home to so many different people with so many different stories pretty sublime. It made me think about how there are seven billion people on Earth each with stories as important and interesting and detailed as the citizens of Marble Springs, which was a little overwhelming). However, I think one database absolutely reaches the threshold of the sublime – Wikipedia.
The amount of information on Wikipedia, to me, is almost inconceivable. Simply the English Wikipedia has over five million articles. (I found this out on the Wikipedia page on Wikipedia). Then, there are many, many sub-wikis. The Harry Potter Wiki, with over 15,000 articles. The Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, with over 13,000. The list goes on.
To me, there is something overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and somewhat terrifying to think that this much information exists right in the palm of my hand for free. Overwhelming in that I can learn anything I want, but wouldn’t know where to start. Awe-inspiring in that technology has come so far that I can access this much information this quickly and easily. And terrifying in that the only reason I don’t know anything about, say, the history of soap, is because I’ve chosen not to learn about it. The only thing stopping me from knowing anything I want is me, and that power and responsibility is scary.
Wikipedia really makes me stop and think about how enormous the world is, how long history is, and how much has happened in our universe. Wikipedia is simply a database, but it represents how much knowledge humanity has amassed during our time on earth. In that way, Wikipedia, and databases like it, are absolutely sublime.