January 03, 2005
Lipstick Traces

Years ago, Kevin and Hal wrote a story for me about the lack of traces in software tools. ("The draft is a document with its own history inscribed upon it. It is thought and process made visible--or rather, left visible.")

In the time since, MS Word's track changes has become indispensible in my life; Quark CopyDesk in others'. A Chicago Tribune story about fingerprints reminds me that we're still lacking traces of most things:

"One of the nation's first successful challenges to the use of digital fingerprinting in the courtroom came in 2003 in Broward County, Fla. The only physical evidence linking Victor Reyes to the murder of Henry Guzman was a partial palm print--an intriguing trace of evidence found on duct tape used to wrap the body in a peach-colored comforter.

A forensic analyst with the Broward County Sheriff's Office used a software program known as MoreHits along with Adobe Photoshop to darken certain areas and lighten others--a process called "dodge and burn," which has long been used in traditional photography. ...

"The makers of the [Adobe] software dropped the ball in not providing a digital record of every action applied to the image," Morris said. He said he would like to see lab analysts or police personnel use software that automatically would log any changes so other examiners could determine later whether the digital print had been altered inappropriately."

Posted by dbrown at January 03, 2005 12:38 PM

What happened to Kevin? We miss his Saturation posts.

Posted by: robert on January 3, 2005 12:46 PM

When I was a student, I had imagined developing a digital archiving project for working writers, a depository for all those tracked changes, before they had even become a standard feature of word processing programs, so that scholars would have some modern equivalent of struck manuscripts, of visible thought processes. But such a project, and the presumption that we lack traces of things, assumes that the creator wants and chooses to make the process visible, that he or she wants to leave traces. Not all do, of course, especially when peach-colored comforters are implicated.

But the case here has less to do with the creator's intent than with the witness's credibility. http://zonepro.home.mindspring.com/court.htm Unfortunately, or fortunately, we cannot depend on technology to make us all honest, or expert.

Posted by: r. on January 3, 2005 07:12 PM
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