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Modernist InformaticsLiterature, Information, and the State$
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James Purdon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190211691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190211691.001.0001

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(p.122) 4. Public Information
Modernist Informatics

James Purdon

Oxford University Press

Bringing together documentary and state information systems, chapter 4 focuses on the filmmaker, theorist, and cultural administrator John Grierson. In the 1940s Grierson began to argue for the responsibility of documentarists and educational filmmakers to provide not only facts and figures but “a pattern of thought and feeling” that could shape the modern citizen’s ability to navigate and make use of an increasingly vast and bewildering selection of information. Drawing on archival research as well as published writings and films, the chapter argues that Grierson’s work in propaganda and information film constitutes a crucial nexus of late modernist experiment, media theory, and administrative control, and it shows how this emerging “information aesthetic” was bound up, in films by Grierson and Paul Rotha, and in the work of collaborators such as the sociologist Otto Neurath, with the official response to new political and social challenges.

Keywords:   information film, propaganda, John Grierson, Paul Rotha, Otto Neurath

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