Walkthrough of level 6:
First computer game (1962):
More games, past and present:
LMC 3314 • Professor Lauren Klein • Spring 2016
Since we watched “Zodiac”, I wanted to look into the actual police archives for the Zodiac Killer. This led me to find the FBI’s vault of documents of almost every major crime investigation in the U.S. I was mostly surprised that the archive was available for the public to view. So if you want to view these documents, they’re all avaliable at that link above.
While viewing the files, I realized that there is still a disparity between the technology of then and now. This disparity ultimately causes a degredation of information in the files. With today’s searching and text transcribing software, we are able to parse through text easily. These technologies were not available in the late 60’s/early 70’s, so they are not able to be parsed by the text transcribers. Even today, all of the pages must be read through just like before these technologies existed.
Secondly, many of the pages experienced complications while scanning, leading to completely unreadable portions. These are simply problems with moving the past archive into more modern times. These complications probably cannot be fixed easily without transcribing the pages and creating textual versions of each page.
I just thought it was interesting that despite having new technologies for organizing archives, the old ways seem to prevail due to the drawbacks of our technology.
The story of the Zodiac killer has a very interesting relationship with archives. The main character and all other individuals/police involved had a very specific perception of the murders. This showed the power of the records that each one saw. Each archive that was brought to attention changed the case and brought new perspectives. Different police departments focused on different evidence, from the one that focused on the finger prints, to the one that focused on the hand writings, and the one that focused on the military grade boot print. Therefore, each department had their own unique view of the case, and believed a different person committed the crime. This really shows how you can create a collection of work or archives and dictate what someone will induce from it. You can shape/dictate how people will see your collection based on how you create/organize it. I think in order to find the killer, the main character had to view all the content of the evidence he found, AND pay close attention to how he found them and what medium they were shown through. Materiality is just as important as the content. I wondered why the killer decided to hand write all letters instead of type them. I feel like the cops could have addressed this and found interesting information. The character dissected the archives and was able to realize what was most relevant to the case.
I was also thinking that the reason the case hadn’t been solved was the fact that all the archives were spread throughout California across those different police departments. I imagine that it would have been so much easier to solve if these departments could all have all of the information. I imagine that in this day and age, a digital archive would have been very helpful.
What makes “Zodiac” authentic is the way it avoids chases, shootouts, grandstanding and false climaxes, and just follows the methodical progress of police work. Just as Woodward and Bernstein knocked on many doors and made many phone calls and met many very odd people, so do the cops and Graysmith walk down strange pathways in their investigation. Because Graysmith is unarmed and civilian, we become genuinely worried about his naivete and risk-taking, especially during a trip to a basement. Zodiac feels long not because the pacing lags but because by the time we creep to the two-hour mark, we’re as exhausted as the characters. The procedural stops being a genre and takes hold as a psychological state, and, by the film’s final act, our heads our spinning. But we, like the cartoonist Graysmith, trod forward not because we’re reinvigorated by new clues, but because we must. Zodiac is a seething metaphor for life in the information age, where how one should allocate their priorities is an ever-increasing uncertainty. Graysmith is a grandfather to Aaron Sorkin’s version of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, disconnected from people, himself, and society by drowning in data and the compulsion to master it. Information gathering isn’t a hobby. It’s an addiction. We’re left in a flurry of voices all claiming relevancy and truth, but there’s no light to shine through them. Zodiac is Fincher’s Rashomon, and all that’s left is the deceitful visage of truth; we’re back to Plato’s Cave and all we have are shadows of reality.
Fincher’s film Zodiac raises interesting questions surrounding archives and how they are framed. The Zodiac killer’s motivations and identity are constantly studied throughout the story, with the police primarily having pieces of evidence from the murders and as pointers to who he might be. As usual, as many physical items from the crime scenes as possible were collected and stored for analysis. Because of their storage and the meaning(s) ascribed to them, this database of items can certainly be seen as an archive.
The Zodiac killer himself is of interest in the context of archiving because of his insistence on his actions being documented/archived. Making contributions to the archive being constructed around his murders are one way he asserts control over his own narrative. Control is an apparent need for the Zodiac killer, and his playful relationship with the police paired with his elusiveness reinforces his confidence. He frequently makes provocative gestures throughout the film to ensure that there will be press coverage, cementing his legacy. It was also hinted at in the film that at times he would feed into the press’s coverage of general murders only to double back afterwards and take credit to previously less publicized killings. This type of understanding of the impact of mass media and records gives a sense that the Zodiac’s killings are not just about deaths, but something more that he is also interested in. He toys with what constitutes evidence and if evidence ultimately points to truth.
Knowing the gravity of committing killings, he thoughtfully creates additional items for archiving beyond just the evidence collected by police from crime scenes. His main mode of expression comes in the form of coded letters, adding to his mystique and serving as his signature. As someone who values control of his own archive, there are a few times where he collects materials from the crime scene where he committed his murders, only to later send them in to authorities as a means of verifying the authenticity of what he is saying or submitting. By doing this, he differentiates his voice from all the other people calling in with tips or trying to claim the distinction of being “The Zodiac Killer”. Artists typically have elements of their creations that can be threaded through their work, and it seems as though the Zodiac gleefully buys into this notion as well.
Robert Graysmith’s (cartoonist turned author) interest in the Zodiac case ultimately provides a remediation of the evidence collected by the police. Because of his intimate knowledge and somewhat obsession with the Zodiac killer he decided to write a book on the case. His subjective interpretations, facts collected as evidence, and previously unreleased (to the public) facts create yet another alternative lens through which to understand the initial archived materials from the case. Graysmith’s remediation ultimately led to this film that we’ve analyzed.
In the movie Zodiac, the character Robert plays a large role in piecing together many of the pieces. His fascination with the case seems to almost stem from his love of books and mysteries. He references and relates many of the questions back to literature and is able to easily pull facts from his memory.
Paul: “What do you do for fun?”
Robert: “I love to read.”
Robert: “Uhmm, I enjoy books.”
Paul: “Those are the same things”
For the majority of the movie’s setting, the detectives and reporters aren’t able to access archives and information as easily as today. The San Francisco Chronicle’s office is filled with typewriters and the different police stations even have trouble faxing information to each other. Robert’s extensive knowledge comes in handy many times – he is a human archive of information. Perhaps this case would have been easier to handle today, or maybe it would present a whole new set of problems.
A modern serial murderer with the same set of intentions could accomplish the same goals in a different set of media. Rather than handwritten notes and codes, a modern Zodiac killer could use emails and encryptions. It’s easy to forget how distant some of these events are in time because the same thing could take place today. Technology cannot eliminate crime because crime evolves with it.
This idea relates to many of the overall themes of this class involving the challenges we face when archiving information. As new forms and media inherit our attention, new problems in archiving arise as well. It is in our nature to seek to save and share our stories, records, works of art, etc. and crime is also in human nature. Today we see a rise in hacking and cyberterrorism, a dangerous side effect to the evolution of technology and connectedness. Both evolve side by side and will always present a new set of problems.
How can a movie about the Zodiac Killer, one of the most infamous mass murderers of our time, relate to a class about archives? A large reason for the intrigue in the Zodiac Killer goes beyond the ciphers and creepy phone calls – the case remains a mystery because the man’s identity was never confirmed. It has been said that if he lived in today’s world, the Zodiac Killer would have been unmasked very early in his murderous career, but due to lack of technology and organization in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the mystery and speculation about his identity endures today.
One could say that the mismanagement of the archive of evidence is the reason the Zodiac Killer was never brought to justice. During the movie, it was clear that the communication between police districts was minimal. Certain districts had specific intelligence and information that was not shared, and thus, pieces of the puzzle were never brought together. In one scene, an officer is acting as a middleman between two other police districts that seemed somewhat indifferent about sharing their evidence, partially because they didn’t all have fax machines to send the information with. In this situation, a communal pool of evidence and information would have been the best way to store and track the data.
Another aspect that struck me was the ease with which a common civilian was able to access confidential police records. Of course, it’s unclear whether this happened in real life or whether it was added flair for the movie. Were they that ambivalent about the case at that point that they would risk compromising the case just to appease an obsessed cartoonist? It certainly harkens back to the debate about security vs. accessibility of archives. I suppose at that point, the detectives were all pretty resigned after years of dead ends, and as such, made a security exception for the cartoonist.
In David Fincher’s Zodiac, the impact that the current technology and archival methods had on the case were apparent. The evidence often took far too long to transfer from department to department, whether it be caused by lack of fax machines, lack of willingness to share knowledge, or just lack of knowledge that it hadn’t been shared already. In intricate cases with careful and knowledgable criminals, knowledge of all facets is imperative to discovering the few connections that are left behind, and that was very hard to achieve in that time. Just watching Graysmith struggle to collect all the pieces for so long just to fill his apartment with uncountable stacks and boxes of papers that could be ruined or disorganized as easily as a spilled tea cup or kicking a stack to the floor while trying to rush through the house made me feel hopeless and exhausted. The disjointed nature that the technology of the time and the lack of cooperation from the archons brought to the investigation was brought to my attention many times throughout the movie, and that lack of technology was actually what brought me back to the time of the movie at one point because surprisingly enough I found myself forgetting it was based in the past. All in all this movie did a great job displaying the limitations of technology at the time as well as highlight the problems that arise from the inability to easily access archives that hold relevant and related information.
Jussi Parikka, from What is Media Archaeology?:
The archive can be approached through its technological context: memory, too, is conditioned by technological platforms and forms of inscription. In contemporary culture, this points towards the urgent need to think of digital-born content as a specific case for new ways of archiving processes instead of just artifacts, and the implications this has for media ontology. Software is one special case of process-based, time-critical technical media, which cannot be reduced to just one aspect of its technicality, for instance source code. One could, however, say that technical media are more widely time-critical… Media-archaeological objects are revived and best understood through their processural, time-critical nature.
Also, the link to sign up for final project presentation timeslots.
Watching Zodiac (2007), I was struck by the collection of evidence and codes surrounding the Zodiac Killer case that went cold until Robert Graysmith began actively investigating the details himself. The first note is decoded by codebreaking enthusiasts after being published in the Chronicle and other San Francisco Bay Area newspapers upon the Zodiac’s instruction. Authority figures and the media work together at first to collect and analyze evidence sent to the Chronicle. However as the investigation continues, the police detectives increasingly protect their findings and become gatekeepers (archons) of what the public is allowed to know. On the other hand, journalist Paul Avery (with the help of Graysmith) becomes a representative of the public’s need for details of the Zodiac Killer, both eventually foregoing their health and neglecting relationships.
A huge connection from the course that I made to the film was our readings of Codex and Fun Home, which are reliant on details of time, geography, and social climate that provide context to the narrative. In the film, the clues found in the cold case files point to the identity and psychology of the killer but it takes Graysmith to bring all of the collected details together to discover who the Zodiac may be. Also, the film points out the added problem of limited technological capabilities of the time. For instance, one scene details Toschi’s and Armstrong’s efforts to coordinate with the other detectives in other counties and towns nearby, who both proclaim that they don’t have a fax machine to send over the photos and handwriting samples. There were no emails or smartphones to glance at. Also, racial bias of the time most likely played a part in not apprehending the Zodiac KIller– two police officers passed by a likely suspect to instead search for a Black man for a short, but critical period of time.
To this day, the case is still open and even advanced technology, particularly DNA evidence, have not been able to link him concretely to the murders. Even in the film, Graysmith was briefly led to a different suspect because the handwriting expert advised him that the sample from the movie poster was close to the handwriting from the Zodiac’s notes. Zodiac also depicted the public’s fascination with who he is, such as the hundreds of “witnesses”, false confessions for media attention, and the theatrical release of Dirty Harry after Avery’s investigation was published. Today, we are obsessed with crime as entertainment, proven with the rise of police procedural dramas and investigational profiles; a quick Google search for “Zodiac Killer” pulls 441,000 results (including a recent conspiracy that he is presidential candidate Ted Cruz).