Although a database tends to be made to store and publish information rather than to create an aesthetic and literary experience, interaction with a database constructs narratives and aesthetic imaginaries, including ontologies and ideologies of the database's subject. Manovich opposes database and narrative, yet a database’s affordances do set up the potential for narrative and coherence. Readers actualize this potential through the process of interpretation, whose experience include a familiarity with databases in daily life.
In a general sense, works of electronic literature can be referred to as database narratives if they need a database to function, thus including most combinatory and hypertext works. After all, most works are built on database structure and enact nonlinear connections between elements.
In a narrower sense, a "database narrative" is a work that uses an explicit database aesthetic to convey a narrative. In doing so, they can use the database structure while also reflecting on the position of the database in society. In her edited volume Database Aesthetics, Victoria Vesna states that “databases and archives serve as ready-made commentaries on our contemporary social and political lives”. Notable database narratives with a database aesthetic are Her Story (Barlow), A Dictionary of the Revolution (Hanafi), Uncle Roger (Malloy), Identity Swap Database (Lialina), and The Atlas Group Archives (Raad).