Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flood Watch

A flood is a powerful image, which is important to the cosmological stories of many societies and has also been significant for the mythology of digital culture as well. In the opening of Pierre Lévy's Cyberculture, he describes what he sees as a flood of information with which we are engulfed, which is "fluid, virtual, simultaneously gathered and dispersed." Lévy argues that the necessary response to this overwhelming deluge is to all create our own arks, although -- thanks to social media and principles of collective intelligence -- these arks "exchange signals" and "impregnate one another."

So it is appropriate that Virtualpolitik friend Mark Marino has created a preliminary demo for the LA Flood Metro Crisis watch blog that goes along with a cell-phone based interactive story, in which with each stage of the unfolding disaster listeners can choose a different character's point of view from which to hear their narrations of the cataclysmic events and commentary. These scenes are populated by a cast that includes a jaded homeowner, a breezy weather man, and a morbid newscaster. A locative component is planned for the future, so that participants can feel more spatially situated and perhaps even caught up in the suspense of such fast-moving catastrophic effects of nature.

Of course, distributed warning systems designed to send information to thousands of citizens' telephones automatically have been the subject of several UC research projects that are designed to improve disaster response. Marino seems to lampoon this kind of dehumanized official rhetoric, because one of the choices on the telephone menu takes the audience member to a government web page that is robotically read aloud by a machine reader, URL backslashes an all.

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