chapter  8
28 Pages

The Bride Stripped Bare to Her Data: Information Flow + Digibodies: Mary Flanagan

In a class I taught in 2001 entitled ((New Technologies and Communications Media," I presented excerpts from a twentieth-century film in order to foster discussion of the cultural position of information historically within the Western imaginary. The romantic comedy, Desk Set (1957), depicts a research library in the center ofthe large ((Federal" corporation, and is perhaps the first film depicting an IBM-like ((EMERAC" machine as it spews out the credits.2 Katherine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of the all-female reference division of the company, a woman who can spontaneously answer any question asked of her or find the answer almost as quickly. From reciting ((By the shores ofGitche Gumee" by Longfellow to answering inquisitive calls about which issue of the New York Times contained which report, she is an information maven. However, Spencer Tracy arrives as the character Richard Sumner, an ((efficiency engineer:' seemingly determined to replace the human knowledge ofthe research division with the overstuffed, ballroom-sized IBM computer.