Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's a New World

I have been following the Virginia Tech shootings with horror. It is a terrible situation and how it continues to be allowed to happen in the US I do not know. My heart is with the people who are suffering through this time and also with those who have already suffered through similar tragedies.

The reason for this post, though, is to take a dispassionate look at the change that Web 2 has made in light of this tragedy.

Firstly, after hearing a brief report on the radio in NZ of the shooting I 'googled' for more news. I came across the Wikipedia page. I have been watching this page with fascination. The page is constantly evolving as more information comes to light, but what is even more interesting is to read the discussion tab on the page. This is where you can read the collaboration going on by the myriad of authors contributing from around the globe. People are discussing ethics, separating fact from fiction from emotion, discussing the correct terminolgy to use - is this a massacre or a shooting? Should the killer be included among the number dead or reported separately? There is even a discussion thread about whether the killer should be termed 'Asian' or 'East Asian' (the distinction here being the understanding of authors in America versus authors in England). I have really been amazed by the amount of discussion going on around presenting this information correctly.

I then followed some links to blog sites written by students at Virginia Tech, here and here and a site with more links here. These students were letting their friends and families know they were okay and publishing their experiences and feelings about the tragedy. The amazing thing is that these students found their only link with their family and friends was through their blog or email as all the phone lines were jammed.

The next interesting thing is that the media started searching the Internet for these self written blog reports to track down witnesses prepared to make statements. They contacted these bloggers by leaving comments on their blogs. Some of these comments make your skin crawl, beginning with a we are so sorry this happened to you type of comment followed by a very eager when can we contact you comment. For example:

"Hi, I'm glad you're okay. I understand that peoples phones are notworking too well in all this chaos. Have you and your friends beenIMing, blogging or posting bulletins about what it going on? I work forthe Boston Herald and I'm wondering if online communication is the bestway to stay in touch during a crisis. What do you think?"

The Internet was also instrumental in letting students know what was happening during the shooting. The Wikipedia article reports that Virginia Tech kept students informed via email during the shooting. Students were instructed to stay inside and stay away from the window via email messages.

The title of my post - It's a New World - is referring to the fact that information truly is only a click away. No longer do you have to rely on the media to report sparingly. You can read heart wrenching stories written by those involved. You can let your friends and families know that you are okay through your online journals. But the thing that really hit home for me in a time when people are questioning humanity, is the humanity of the people involved in putting together the wikipedia page.

In this time of fear for the families of those involved I'm sure this diligent and ethical reporting by Wikipedia is greatly valued.

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Anonymous said...

The thing I felt with our links across the globe is less than Six degrees of separation. Sheryl's children's friends go there and they were there in the weekend visiting.

None of us are immune to this sort of tragedy as witnessed by the shootings in Aramoana.

Rachel Boyd said...

Snap! I blogged about exactly the same thing!

I couldn't believe the constantly evolving Wikipedia page... newspapers are out! In times like these relevant, up to date information is important and that's what wikipedia provides.

The internet & technology has been vital throughout this tragedy... all at a click away.

Didn't notice the discussion tab... must go later and check it out. Cheers!