Friday, July 08, 2005

bad cold and rambling thoughts

Not quite so early at the desk this morning. It's 10.31 am.

I shouldn't really be here at all but in bed. My sore throat has evolved into a pretty bad cold and I have all the undesirable symptoms that go with it - running nose, headache, sore shoulders, sneezes, watering eyes. Oh how lovely.

It's a wet and cold day too and snowing in Kosciusko at last check. Sometimes, like today, you can guess that it's snowing because the temperature drops and there is a chill in the air that feels like it's come off the mountains and travelled down to the coast.

Stayed up a little later than I intended last night watching for any updates on the blasts in London. My partner's sister is in London and we were in contact with her via email to make sure she was OK.

It seems very surreal, from Sydney. I can imagine it must feel very unworldly for Londoners. I've checked the BBC web site and Sydney's ABC web site. The Internet seems to come into its own during incidents such as this. One Londoner put it, "the Internet has been my window into the world during this event". I've been thinking a bit about what is different about it. What is it about the Internet and its uses today that means that during an emergency incident, it takes on a more significant role than it ordinarily does, particularly in relation to other media? My thoughts on this are a kind of cold affected ramble through the myriad of ways of thinking about this topic.

Partly, from a production perspective,
the ability to deliver information rapidly and without interruption are both critical functions of the media during an emergency event. The Internet seems to enable the collection, composition and delivery of information from distributed sites and additionally, requires less orchestration that other media forms. This means it doesn't rely on as many punctuated points in the production process. Punctuated points can be knocked out easily as a result of interrupted or partial network services, and this can effect the delivery of information anywhere along the production path. These characteristics of the Internet give it an advantage over other media forms during the coverage of an emergency incident.

The other difference is that the Internet facilitates the collection and delivery of multiple media forms without the same requirement for it to be 'packaged' or bundled to the same extent as other media forms.

Let's look at broadcast television. You do see quite a bit of improvisation - rough and ready camera footage, extra heads and torsos appearing in frame occasionally and people wandering in and out of conversations while they are being filmed.
Increasingly too, you see the incorporation of other media into the live broadcast such as personal hand held videos (the coverage of 9/11 relied heavily on personal videos). You could even argue that these aspects operate as the signature of the 'live emergency event' and perhaps define it as a genre. Ultimately though, stories are still required to be assembled and delivered ('bundled') into the rather narrow parameters of what has become expected of this media form over its lifetime.

The Internet as a media form, on the other hand, does not have quite the same limitations. It facilitates the use of data from a much broader set of media forms such as text from sms, chat, images and sound from photos and video and the composition of this data in multiple mediums (web, chat, video, radio etc) and in multiple formats (news web site, blog). This means a media response can be formulated in a broader set of spatial and temporal configurations and it can be delivered more rapidly.

So while you could argue that during the broadcast of an emergency incident, television and radio operate under a changed set of conditions and with different expectations, and that this gives these media forms more latitude for impromptu improvisation, I argue (for the sake of this exercise at any rate), that the Internet is not as 'bundled' and furthermore, because it cannot be conceived as a single medium, its properties allow it to perform an extra ordinary role in the emergency event.

However, all of these characteristics really only makes a difference for the information producer. Access to the Internet can be just as disrupted as other telecommunication services, with ultimately the same result for the end user or consumer. One of the other aspects of the Internet as a media form during the emergency event, is that it can perform multiple purposes. It can act like a poster or billboard, as a news channel, commentary site, collection of personal experiences to name a few examples. These interventions into the emergency event support and create a different set of relationships between the information producer and information consumer than that of other media forms.

So to wind up this rather long winded ramble, perhaps the defining differences come down to two main factors;

- the Internet
as a media form, must be understood not a single media that requires the conditioning and framing of information into a single broadcast stream, but as a multicast platform with multiple data streams.

- the Internet is, partly because of its multicast technical properties described above and partly because it
is less bundled or 'packaged' can:

* deliver information more rapidly
* be less prone to interruption or disruption in the production and delivery of information
* perform mutiple purposes or roles

All of these contribute to the emergence of a different set of relationships between the information producer and consumer and gives the Internet an extra ordinary role in relation to other media during the emergency event.


Mac said...

Hope you're feeling better.

Ms M said...

Hi Mac

Thanks for your thoughts. Yes I'm feeling much better. Seems like everyone I know has come down with this lurgy. My partner is just recovering as well. We've both been sniffling our way through the week.