Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Morpheus Database :: A Transformative Tool

"I've got a lot of toys"
21st Century Digital Boy, Bad Religion


The Project

According to Neil Gaiman, Morpheus's library is an archive that not only includes every story ever imagined, but a copy of every book that an author never wrote. While such a database of research and such a talented librarian as Lucien is beyond my ability to replicate, I will be building a digital depository for data on every tale that I will be reading in preparation for my exams this summer.

As I continue in my working life, I am realizing more and more that to explain how I process information, charts, diagrams, props (ones to smash and other things to smash them with), as well as various computer programs are becoming invaluable to me. In private conversations a pen and a napkin can do the trick, but for a massive project like the one I am working on this summer, I need a lot more "paper" to get the job done. Eco-conscious and a technophile, I prefer to do my work digitally.

The Program

The Morpheus Database (Mark 1): By the end of the summer this program will allow me to cross-reference data on transformations from over 100 classical, medieval and early modern tales for each form taken, sequence, reason for change, type of change and possible relevance for gender, disability, queer, race, class, animal and object studies.

The aim of the project is to help (1) translate my thoughts into more easily comprehended forms, (2) allow for a quick review of a large amount of texts & notes and (3) eventually to allow for the production of data-clusters where corresponding tales can be called up at the press of a search-key. For instance, as the database gets better, I'd be able to stack information on instances where a body was transformed via surgical intervention or where the resulting form was considered to be hybrid instead of a new whole. It will start rough, then change and change again.

The Machinery

Sharing notes with fellow researchers, and reading my friend Maria Carson's blog (on study-scapes), I get a sense of how different personalities process information differently. Many friends keep detailed notebooks, others keep flash-cards, and some make poster-board diagrams with thoughts connected by colored string. The technologies we use become a part of the memory and thinking apparatus, so that the human-research machinery often reflects one another. 

Doing my 5th grade homework on the plastic mats in my father's office while he drew lines on maps and entered data for the first round of privatized satellite imaged maps and GPS and holding family dinner conversations identifying the best treatment for torn muscle groups and organ failure, the way I approach literature is bound to look different. I suppose, this is how the daughter of a nav-tech computer programmer and a registered nurse does her summer research. I can only imagine what my children's work will look like.


  1. Are you developing this database yourself? Are you using Excel, or something like that?

    This is very interesting.

    And thanks so much for the shout-out! You are the best. Can't wait to see you this summer.

  2. Right now the database will just be my pet project, but maybe after the summer I will open it up and find a way to make it open access so others can contribute. It's not excel but very like it. The tech guys at GWU installed it on my computer and it brags to be database builder. Probably has lots of toys I'll figure out as I go along!

    Very happy you found it intriguing! We've talked a bit about O.O.O. and theologies of conversion, and faith-identity change is something I'm going to be tracking more heavily in some of my later readings. I'll love to share it with you when we meet up back in Chicago!

    Loving your new blog and your writing in general :)