Monday, December 15, 2008

Libraries and Archives Depicted on Most Evil

Most Evil's Dr. Michael Stone

One of my favorite shows is Most Evil on the Investigation Discovery Channel. Forensic psychiatrist Michael Stone from Columbia University researches and rates murderers, serial killers, and sociopaths on a scale of evil.

I have been interested in true crime since I was a child, which I am often teased about because you wouldn't expect me to have such dark interests. For instance, the first grown-up book I read was Wasted: The Preppie Murder when I was 9! I also wrote my Master's thesis on the media representation of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. I rattle off details about killers the way others talk about athletes.

Of course, I am also drawn to the show because Dr. Stone attempts to code and classify disordered, abhorrent human behavior on a hierarchical scale of depravity. On opposite sides of the spectrum are those who kill in self-defense, the least evil, and psychopaths who torture and kill, the most evil. But who is to say that "Criminals who kill in self-defense, but are extremely provocative toward the victim" (Level 4) are less evil than "Traumatized, desperate persons who kill" (Level 5)?

Between crime reenactments, the show depicts Stone using library and archival materials, such as microfiche, card catalogs, and files. In reality, most of the research is probably conducted by Stone and his assistants through digital means. For instance, newspaper articles are more easily retrieved through the Internet, rather than microfiche.

The use of these traditional resources connote Ivy-League academic research more readily than electronic files. It is more dramatic and visually stimulating to show the face of a serial killer via overhead projector than on a computer screen or Stone researching in a noble, wood-paneled library. Perhaps I am the only one to notice because I have always loved the physical space of archives and libraries? I am interested in how we will visually represent research in the future as we become more used to the Internet as a primary research tool.

Explore Dr. Stone's Evil Scale

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