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.

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.

The addition of materiality to media allows for more novel interpretations, however for some it is the only form of understanding the media. A team at Georgia Tech created a system that converts the digital text into a physical medium through the use of a haptic feedback system. The design uses small plastic bits that can raise to the surface, creating braille characters based of the text that is inputted into the system. This prototype got them to second place in the Inventure Prize, and is currently still being developed at Georgia Tech. This enables the blind to be able to read digital content, without having to wait for it to be printed using special braille printing processes. (Braille is even printed on special paper, since everyday paper would not hold up to the deformations The speed and portability of the Haplit device allows for the blind to be able to obtain media at a rate similar to everyone else in society, helping alleviate the large divide in literacy between the blind and non-blind people.

This gap between media and materiality is more out of practical benefits than for an additional sensation as we saw in class with Between Page and Screen. The necessity of such a system is another aspect of the bridges between media and materiality. In class the bridge allowed us to further our schema of the work, however with a system like Haplit the bridge acts as the only mode of interpretation. Systems like Haplit allow for people to not be hindered by their physical deprivation from literacy, which is ever more crucial in today’s world.


Digital Fabrication and Hybrid Materialities


In this article the author talked about an art show she had attended recently that was made by digital tools such as laser cutting, 3D printing and digital knitting and weaving. This article relates to our discussion about hybrid technology and specifically hybrid materiality. As we have seen in the paper circuit and Between Page and Screen examples many people are turning to these hybrid technologies in order to make something different or new. In the art exhibit the artists were not worried about the technology itself, but rather how they could use the technology to create something different. I believe today’s culture is moving more towards these hybrid technologies to make tasks simpler or easier in general. One thing this article continued to touch on is how 3D printing is used to easily create molds for silicon or plastics.

Recently I came across a Facebook video where a student used 3D printing to print out molds for plastic braces which he used to help straighten his teeth. This innovation costs him less than two hundred dollars where using name brand metal braces would have cost him over 2000 dollars to help fix his teeth. I believe this will be more common where 3D printing is used to cut the costs of what is normally expensive. Hybrid technologies are new and harder to find in today’s society, but as these technologies become more common and widespread even more uses will be discovered.

I had first heard of the Stanley Parable quite a few years ago, back during its first few weeks of release. Produced as an “indie game,” the game used a repeatable narrative adventure in order to both give and take away the player’s sense of control. The game’s most interesting characters are the narrators, who present preferred actions available to the player, but more importantly providing constant meta commentary to the entertainment of the user. The intricate mix between snarky sarcasm and morbid humor draws in the player as another aspect of the materiality presented by the video game. By having the user be another aspect of the interactive, the user more than interacts with the game, he interacts with the meta nature of the game. I personally enjoyed the game, though I found some “routes” slightly irritating, but overall the game is one of the few to make you think both on a surface level but also on a meta-psychological level. The game becomes greater than the one-way literature that it provides; it becomes a conversation between narrator and player, through meta commentary and silent user actions. One game that is similar to this is Portal, because although it is more linear, the game forces a dynamic relationship between the player and the “hidden” character in the game. The Stanley Parable takes a step further into the realm of interactive and engaging gameplay, perhaps suggesting a time where games will become fully immersible, with many, even infinite, possibilities. This brings to mind the video game presented in the movie Her, which presented a prude game character with which the main character has a personable conversation. This eventual possibility of digital objects having the ability to interact on a meta level with material objects such as people will go on to highlight that materiality that is present in people. Each video game adventure will become tailored to each individual, changing dynamically to the characteristics of the person. In the Stanley Parable, I reached quite a number of sarcastic endings, as a result of my stubborn attitude towards an inanimate narrator directing my actions. Each individual’s experience will change depending on their reaction to the digital events and meta aspects, and the game will react differently to their actions.

I found a short video about how the engineers and the programmers dealt with the cost of the colors, and limited computer memory. It also briefly explains about what sprite is and how it works in the computer language. Just like cell is the small unit building up the living body, pixel is the smaller unit building up the images. Pixel holds a binary code that represents the color. Sprites is a generic term for images which can be placed into a larger scene. Originally sprites were images that could be inserted without disturbing the scene. In this sense, they are implemented with hardware. The smallest sprite is 8×8 pixels (8-bit). Most of games have characters around 16×16 pixels or even bigger; therefore, characters is drawn on a multiple 8×8-pixel tiles. On the screen, those multiple tiles are loaded together to form a single unit form. Here is the sprite sheet of Mario and Luigi. Their sizes are 16×16 or 16×32. The purpose of sprite is that you do not need to re-draw or change the color of main screen every time the characters moves, but instead you just need to paste these blocks of sprite on to the main screen. It is quicker for the computer operates, and it saves lot of memory RAM. The sprite is put independently onto the main screen, and has its own color palette; therefore, it does not get affected by the manipulation of the main screen. smb3_spritesheet