Databases & Spatial Narrative

Today we have been exploring the spatial narratives offered by the mining of databases and the operation of algorithms, random factors, or human choice.

What is an algorithm?


al·go·rithm [al-guh-rith-uhm]


a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as forfinding the greatest common divisor.

1890–95;  variant of algorism, by association with Greek arithmós number. 2013. the definition of algorithm. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

Informal definition

In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculations. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning.

An algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Starting from an initial state and initial input (perhaps empty), the instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing “output” and terminating at a final ending state. The transition from one state to the next is not necessarily deterministic; some algorithms, known as randomised algorithms, incorporate random input.

Wikipedia. 2013. Algorithm. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

So in real simple terms, we learnt that in todays society, media has become an accumulation of data, comprising of digital constituent parts. We as a species are constantly leaving a data trail, whether that be by making bank transactions, purchases with credit/debit cards or using social media, we are always casting a digital shadow of ourselves.

We looked at some examples of database cinema that offers the user some interactivity and choice into what they are watching and the form that the narrative takes.

Honky Tonk’s Journey to the End of Coal is an example, as well as The Johnny Cash Project.

We also took a look at One Day on Earth which is described as a unique global movement, community media creation platform, and collaborative film production engine. It invites you to join an international community of thousands of filmmakers, hundreds of schools, and dozens of non-profits, and to contribute to their unique global project. One Day on Earth is a community that not only watches, but participates.


Honkytonk. 2013. Honkytonk Films – Online screening: Journey To The End Of Coal. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

The Johnny Cash Project. 2013. THE JOHNNY CASH PROJECT. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

One Day on Earth. 2013. One Day on Earth. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13 November 2013].

“I want to conclude with an important consideration: investigating the film algorithms and reasoning in terms of databases and data do not absolutely mean to forget the human experience. It does not mean to focus only on the mechanic interactivity and new media: what is to be underlined is that the user experience in the era of digital media is more linked to the paradigm of database than to the narrative one, and needs new theoretical models to be understood and analysed.”

Cristiano Poian, Investigating Film Algorithm, University of Udine, available at: [Accessed: 13 November 2013].