Infinite Summer: A Database? A Metaphor for the Mind?

More thoughts on David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’ (no spoilers).

I enjoyed Jim Brown’s thoughts on the idea that Infitite Jest is a database, rather than a narrative as such.  David Foster Wallace conveys his thoughts and (crucially) his feelings about the modern world through an onslaught of facts about the characters and their environment.  Its difficult for readers, in the habit of reading linear narrative, to parse the wealth of information.

Guided by Infinite Summer, I’ve chosen to let the information flow over me, not worrying about unlocking a code or ‘getting’ the story before the author chooses to reveal it.  Through this approach, I find I am quite comfortable with the abrupt changes in both style and the timeline.  The dissonance, the confusion and the sheer forbidding nature of human existence, all emerge as powerful themes, despite the apparent disconnect between the myriad storylines.

Jim also mentions the idea of Lev Manovich’s “New Media Objects”.  True, such objects do not need to be electronic, but Infinite Jest would be seem much easier to understand if we saw it in web form.  The footnotes, and footnotes on footnotes, are really hyperlinks rendered in print form.1

Another New Media Object:  Judith Adams’  Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden, definitely.  Its still one of the most expansive and intellectually challenging projects I’ve ever been involved in.  Not for the first time, here’s a key quote from my essay on what we did:

The constituent parts of the script (I hesitate to call them pages) existed in their very own piece of cyber space, one that neither preceded nor succeeded any other. They therefore made as much sense when put in one order, as they did in another. This matters, because non-linearity better reflects the human mind, thoughts, history. We are constantly affected by the actions of others, and each thought (indeed, each life) is affected not by one, but several narratives that have gone before. A scene has two meanings, one for each character. A scene may have two meanings, depending on what has preceded it. There is circularity to our lives and our history that is ideally represented by a non-linear medium.

1. w/r/t footnotes, I’ve complained before about those people, such as George Monbiot, who still seem to use footnotes in their online texts, when a simple inline link would do it.  However, I am enjoying the way those participating in the Infinite Summer Project have ‘regressed’ to using old-styley footers, a nod to Infinite Jest.

2 thoughts on “Infinite Summer: A Database? A Metaphor for the Mind?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *