“Use men to get the things you want!”

The above quote comes from Baby Face (1933), a “Pre-Code” Hollywood film starring Barbara Stanwyck that embraced Nietszche and exploitation as a primary means of Depression era survival. This did not go over so well with the newly empowered MPPDA, who upon enforcing their Production Code in 1934 required that any re-release of this film have the offending Nietszche material cut out and replaced by a new voice-over containing a moralizing lecture (and at least an implication that the book in the scene is a Bible, rather than the writing of Nietszche). No master and slave power dynamic and more a cautionary “there is a right way and a wrong way” for Lily Powers to get along in the world.

I think this is an appropriate choice for today’s workshop response, since we were tasked in the afternoon with “exploiting” one of three free content management systems–Drupal, Omeka, and Scalar–to see if one of them would suit our particular project. And because I tested Scalar using the above offending scene, creating a film and censorship project (still private, but also with all of one page and 2 media items in it, so not that interesting to the outside observer yet). I was attracted to Scalar because it was designed specifically to be used with multimedia projects using images, video, sound, etc, because a lot of those kinds of files could be linked in from outside sources (so not having to have a lot of server space built in for large media files), but also because, as I said to my other Scalar-testing colleagues at the table, it is rather like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, based on nodes and paths but not requiring a linear structure and including other visualization techniques to link data within the project.

Scalar was somewhat the reverse of my experience working with other CMS or blogging tools like WordPress, in that it required me to ingest or link to my media first and then build pages, comments, notes and annotations around that media second. Easy enough to re-orient myself to, and also not requiring me to have a grand plan or structure from the start. And the annotations and tags are truly wonderful. I could annotate my video clip, starting at the moment where the cobbler invokes the great philosopher and ending with Lily’s thoughtful “huh” (notice the clip above is just pulled in from Youtube and has no annotations). The annotation could include detailed text explaining why I made that particular choice (Here Be Voice-Over after The Code!) which would pop-up under the playback of the video when it came to the annotation starting point. Tags could be anything I want, and would be created as a page within my project, which meant that I could Tag any media object or other page, as well as add further explanatory information, links, bibliography or notes to the Tag itself–my first tag was “Pre-Code” and I can see how that could use some defining for audiences not familiar with the brief period from 1930-1934 when the MPPDA had a written censorship code but the studio members really didn’t make any attempt to enforce said self-produced code until further threats of Catholic boycotts forced them to finally capitulate and set up an office that would police the industry until 1968. I could add links to wikipedia, PDFs, and more. And, with more items tagged, and more tags, I could very easily look at my project as a network visualization (tags are links, lots of mentions in tags would mean sizeable nodes), showing how censorship could cross studios, films, actors, genres, gender, or any other grouping that would change the mostly linear and anecdotal story of film censorship in current scholarship. And I could see all of this potential after only an hour-and-a-half of work, which was even more exciting, especially if I am hoping to have students engage with this tool for a course assignment.

Source: “Use men to get the things you want!”