Woman, Interrupted: A Kit-Basher's Guide to Hedy Lamarr

Freeman, John

This project reflects my interests in both technological issues and intellectual property rights. Only late in her life was Hedy Lamarr recognized as someone other than the controversial idol of the silver screen. Indeed, her preferred career would have been that of inventor. Highly classified for decades after WWII, her work with the avantgarde composer George Antheil on a frequency-hopping torpedo guidance system laid the groundwork for today‟s spread spectrum technology. Unfortunately, Lamarr lived as a “woman, interrupted,” her further contributions to the war effort restricted to selling kisses to male chauvinists able to afford $50,000 war bonds. Two films (one by Andy Warhol), a much contested “autobiography,” and an “identity theft” by the Corel Corporation have only contributed more noise and distortion to her life‟s narrative. A victim of prepackaged kits, whether Hollywood‟s press kit or Corel‟s infringement on her image, Lamarr deserves to have this narrative restored in full.

As a “kit-basher,” I would like to write an essay and prepare a multimedia presentation that will challenge the prepackaged image of Lamarr, as evidenced by Corel‟s infringement on her image, a questionable “autobiography,” and distortions still found in films. For example, I would like to employ principles of Information Theory, as advanced by Claude Shannon and John Pierce, as a means of identifying redundancies in the various “signals” purporting to communicate information about her. Identifying such redundancies, playing them against each other, will allow me to apply “errorcorrecting codes,” thus reducing what information theorists label the noise-to-signal ratio. Relating frequency hopping to the sampling and beat mixing of contemporary hip hopping, I will show that the modern turntablist‟s methods of sampling and mixing not only hearken back to the noise wheels and frequency hopping encryption explored by Lamarr but can also play a role in my restoration of her life narrative.