Friday, March 23, 2007

The data-mining gambit

Alice considers the epistemological consequences for movie-making of the notion that obsessive reading will pay off. Here's a taste, but it's full of other interesting comments about everything from lie detectors to actors with famous voices to (Shakespeare assignmenters take note!) the career of Donald Foster:

I'm partial to any data-mining techniques practiced by young Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor, but I'm skeptical of how often the gambit gets used in movies and books because it frequently seems to provide exactly and only the information that the detectives need. I know I'm supposed to suspend disbelief at these things--I always do in 24, where data-mining seems to take seconds--but it strikes me as an interesting epistemological question (no, really) about crime procedurals: how do we know what we know in the procedural? How do we distinguish good and bad information? Why do we believe that more evidence-gathering will lead to greater clarity? The great thing about Zodiac is that it takes up many of these questions: the film is so long because there's so much contradictory information to be sorted out, and there are significant lags in coordinating the investigations among the three police departments involved in the case. Owen Gleiberman mentions this fascinating problem in his review of the film.

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