While digging into papers and publications on databases, archives, botanical science, digital data etc, it became evident that the irruption of digital technologies have impacted our perception of the nature of records and their quality as evidence. The use of natural analogies to describe the ephemeral condition of all human endeavours has been extended to the digital realm.  Meanwhile, new technologies of information process and distribute human ‘archived’ memory creating ‘neuronal paths’.

Digital data is constantly poured into databases, which in return have been declared to be the preeminent cultural form of post-industrial era. It has been suggested that fractals may be the most useful imaginary to describe databases. For Dimock fractal database ‘comes as a spectrum, ranging from the microscopic to ‘phenomena on or above Man’s scale’.  He defines fractal as ‘a geometry of what loops around, what breaks off, what its jagged, what comes only in percentages’. [1]

Fractals are endless complex patterns created by constantly repeating a simple process in an infinitely loop. The complexity of many nature’s shapes is fractal: from trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, seashells etc.[2] Since nature has constituted a source of inspiration for artist, the fractal geometry of nature is found in art through centuries and across cultures.

There is growing interests in the possibilities of using fractal geometry in biology for classification etc. For instance, its opportunities and challenges are discussed in ‘Images Processing in Biology Based on the Fractal Analysis’.

Paul Bourker, a computer scientists at the University of Western Australia, helped by contributors, has assembled a collection of 45 maps. By zooming out Google Earth images, landscapes show fractal patterns. Although not infinitely uniform –as mathematical fractals-, they do replicate themselves across smaller range of scales.


[1] Ed Folsom, ‘Database as Genre: The Epic Transformation of Archives’, PMLA, v.122, 5, Special topic: Remapping Genre, (2007), p. 1573-1575.

Wai Chee Dimock, Trough Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time, (Princeton: Princeton UP,2006), pp.76-77.

[2] http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-are-fractals/



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