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.

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.”
Paul: “Mhmm.”
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.

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).

One of the most immediate elements of David Fincher’s, Zodiac, is the centrality of the archival process to the film. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book of the same name, the film primarily focuses on Graysmith’s obsessive search for the notorious Zodiac killer. A large part of the plot is comprised of Graysmith’s amateur detective work, characterized by his off record collaboration with various different local police departments and his exhaustive exploration of said departments case files (i.e. archival evidence) even long after the authorities had more or less let the case go cold. Such investigative efforts are the defining characteristic of the true crime drama to which Zodiac (the book) belongs. In a way it, as well as other works of the genre in general, serve to illustrate a fundamental problem of “the archive” that is indicated by Derrida and that we have previously discussed in class. It seems that often, the success of the true crime author/investigator stems from their ability to bypass the issue of jurisdiction. Specifically in Zodiac, Graysmith’s numerous conversations with the various police chiefs highlight the limitations of the individual departments that derives from their reluctance/inability to collaborate interdepartmentally as far as granting one another access to information goes. In this way, this film points to the fundamental limitations of the archive that derive from both its political, and physical nature. That is to say for one, that the “archon” (here the police departments) effectively restrict information due to issues of rivalry and control, and two, that the geographic locality of the physical archive is limiting to the access of information necessary to develop the familiarity with the evidence that is needed to connect the dots of a case: hence the significance of a devoted third party.

I found this interesting TED article on how gaming can improve our day to day lives or at least has the potential to. Jane McGonigal is a renowned game designer and author who advocates the use of mobile and digital technology to channel positive attitudes and collaboration in a real world context. In this presentation, she proposes making the real world more like a video game and not the other way around. She believes that humans have the potential to work together and create a new world we all want to participate in. I am not sure what that world will looks like, but I am really excited to see where this idea leads her to and society in general.



A 3D tour of the Jason Rohrer exhibit.

In preparation with our Skype call with Mike Maizels, curator of “The Game Worlds of Jason Rohrer”, I did a little Google’ing. It was then that I came across a New York Times article titled

An Exhibition That Proves Video Games Can Be Art

Essentially, the article mentions that a film critic, Roger Ebert, refused to acknowledge video games as ever being able to possess any artistic significance. Soon later, he recanted his statement by saying “I don’t know if they can be inspired to transcend themselves,” he wrote. “Perhaps

can. How can I say?”

Of course, the article goes on to talk about Passage, along with Jason Rohrer’s Art Exhibit, The Game Worlds of Jason Rohrer. But I’d like to look back at all of the video game related things we’ve assessed at this semester. Chain World, most definitely, was able to transcend the video game confines and become a form of art. It grew to model a religion. For a video game to touch so many people and evoke existentialistic thought throughout the gaming community is a big deal.

The graphics may not always be extravagant, but I think the artistic appeal that video games are able to possess isn’t solely aesthetic. The emphasis on the materiality of the video for the cause of judgement is surpassed by the content.

So after looking at the book Between Page and Screen and our talks on hybridity, I thought of this small flash game. The basic idea of this game is that there is a puzzle to get certain tiles lit up by your robot through placing a series of commands. This reminded my of the hybrid factor since it is accessible by many people as a flash game, yet teaches concepts such as recursion (a looping of code). It also tries to teach the player how to do the coding in an efficient manner, since there’s only so many spaces of squares that the commands can go into. This is similar to the pages from the activity on Monday since we had to use the pages to see what was written, as well as hold them up to the required webcam. Both had the user go through certain thought processes too, but there were different ways to approach the tasks as well. For the Between Page and Screen, most people held the pages facing the camera, while others used rear facing cameras and flat surfaces to get the code to register for the website. In this game, there are multiple ways a player could do the recursion problems. This game is a hidden visual programming language inside a game, similar to how the smart watch is a hidden computer inside a watch. At least, that’s how I processed hybridity; the process of combining things possibly through a way that hides the message you’re trying to give in plain sight.

There are a few games and technology that use the same concept as Between Page and Screen. One example is AR (Augmented Reality) Games. You take the card and show it to the camera, the Nintendo will detect the object and add shapes on top of it on its screen. You can play around with the game as you please. Like Between Page and Screen, this technology creates a hybrid between the physical and virtual realms. Although it may not be the easiest way to play these games, I think it is really creative, and that is what attracts people to it. It is not something you see every day and even if you do not stick with it, it will probably capture your initial interest. I do wonder though how exactly these hybrids could get people to stick with them. If it is too inefficient to use, the initial interest people had will wear off and the technology won’t be used.

This technology also makes me wonder just exactly who would use it. Would people who aren’t as into technology think it looks to complicated? Maybe only people who have mastered current techniques would want to explore things like this. Then maybe creators would have to keep in mind who their audience is when building these games or writing these books. Also, maybe an alternative is to have both options available to audiences if they do not like one.

I don’t really remember everything we talked about in class in terms of materiality and hybridity together (I think I was turned off by the abstractness of the story from the book) BUT the idea of hybridity and adapting to changes in technology is something that I DID think about in class. Hybridizing the technology we use every day (such as the book we read in class using the page to screen website) is a good way to help include people of all ages in the steady progression of technology. Where often times older people are left behind because of lack of experience/interest in new things, or younger people let an “analog” technology fall by the wayside because they might view it as old and boring, this kind of thing is a great way get everyone involved. In terms of material preference, where an elderly person might prefer to hold a book and physically turn the pages, an eight year old might find that tedious and prefer to simply swipe their finger across a screen (as more and more people are becoming accustomed to.) With hybrid, it’d kind of like a happy medium where there’s enough of each version included to bring in the interest of the black, the white, AND the grey! Get the older people more interested in digital media and also to get younger people more interested in analog media. Instead of researchers and engineers focusing on just one or the other, there can be a focus on both that allows continued technological progress without leaving anyone or anything behind.