Constraints on the Narrative

One issue Joyce Walker discusses in Narratives in the Database involves the constraints society places on the information available on the Internet. Walker states:

“In spite of the seemingly endless diversity of the elements contained within the network of the Internet, we are nevertheless constrained by the norms of our society as to what is created and what elements are recombined.”

Walker illustrates this using the powerful, but extreme, example of how the memorial photographs of the victims of 9/11 where contrasted against the ‘mugshots’ of the terrorists involved in the attacks on the legacy.com website. The pictures chosen to represent and juxtapose the two different groups illustrate how the author of the webpage has limited the narrative of 9/11 to our cultural experience of the attacks. Walker attempted to find similar memorial sites for the terrorists of the attacks, sites that could have easily been formed by any religious extremist with access to the Internet, but she could not find such a site. The Internet and its search methods have presented this story in a way that reflects the cultural norms of society.

This idea can be worrisome when considering other stories or narratives of the past that we create from our Internet sources. Are we building these narratives, or have they already been formed by the authors of webpages, culture, or even by the database-hyperlink structure of the Internet? It is interesting to consider how our knowledge of past experiences is formed by following the hyperlinks presented by others, especially when using a search engine such as Google.

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