John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Ghost Map And Viral Media

Ghost Map discusses the outbreak of Collara during the 1850’s In England. In this discussion, the book dives into the way the disease was transmitted, the lives it affected, and the advances in medicine it helped to bring about. Dr. Snow, who was a practicing doctor during this time period, made great discoveries in anesthesia and came up with the theory of how Collara spread during 1851 in London, England. Cholera is caused by contaminated water or food.

People who were living in the Lambeth region of London, were living in very tight and unsanitary conditions. There were 40 people living in a one room apartment and when people had to throw out there trash or waste, it was thrown into the sewage systems of London which connected to the cities drinking water supply. After John Snow’s death, England’s parliament finally dealt with the issue by constructing a sewage system which was largely operational by 1865. Later on, in 1866 another out break of Cholera claimed which claimed 4,000 people’s lives. The cause of the disease was traced to the East London water company who contaminated a nearby groundwater supply due to negligent practices.

When something in the media goes viral, it can contain a lot of these similar traits as the spread of the disease Cholera did in London. When something goes viral, it has an incident that takes place, then a catalyst or carrier, then a result. Take for example the fire fighter first responder who recorded Dayna Kempson-Schacht’s death on his cell phone then passing this video onto another unknown firefighter who walks into a local bar and texted it to other patrons. After that, the video spread until her parents received a copy of the video. The accident of this young girl was the incident that took place, then a firefighter was the carrier, and the people in the bar were the drinking water supply that spread the video which lead to the original firefighter who shot the video to get suspended. The source and spread of this video is similar to how the disease Cholera spread in England during 1851.

The same issues of finding the cause of a viral media video like what happened with the girl in the auto accident are the same which happened with the outbreak of Cholera. The source of the disease and how it was spreading is what had the medical community of that day confused and guessing on why this outbreak was occurring. Then the social and political issues around the incident make things complicated in people wanting to prove that there theory or reasoning is right which can cost lives. With the incident of Cholera in England, finding the source of the disease was imperative in order to stop the spread of the disease and save lives. With the girl in the car crash, more then one person could be found as the cause for the spread of the video and the certain questions can arise from both of these incidents. What about the issue of finding other sources of transmission from the spread of a disease or video and holding everyone accountable who caused the spread?

4 replies to this post
  1. I like the parallels you draw between cholera and the Dayna Kempson-Schacht video. For future blog posts, I’d you to focus on pushing your analysis even further. What do we have to gain by thinking of the video in these terms? What do we lose? What do you think about whether those who spread the video should be accountable? Why?

    Also, be sure to give your posts a good proof read. There are some spelling errors and run-on sentences that, if eliminated, would improve the post.

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for your post – it made me approach forming a comparison between viral disease and viral media in a new way. I was looking at the idea of transmission, mostly, before I read your post. To me, what was important was that the disease occupied many bodies but only through the one medium – water. Some were susceptible, other weren’t. There was less mutation of the disease between bodies – in fact, none.

    I had been considering whether or not getting to the source was really relevant. In media, the original version of the “viral structure” is actually lost, as we see a “slipping of the sign.” The original is lost in a sea of hyper-referentiality as the original mutates into new forms, with new mediums, new ecologies, etc. There are replicas of the replicas. However, sometimes the medium is constant, as with Cholera. It is exclusively transmitted through “infected” water.

    Your example of the fireman’s cell phone video is similar: the video does exist on more than one medium – a private, personal cellphone and a public forum like Youtube…although both are videos. Finding the original, in your example, carries a lot of implications, and questions of legality, morality, etc. are raised.

    The question that “plagues” me now, not to be funny, is whether or not the people who watched, shared, uploaded and helped to spread the video are as responsible (legally and ethically) as the fireman/first responder who recorded the video.

    Comparing it to the text – are the miasmist as responsible for the death toll as the infected water? Is there a difference between explicit and implicit responsibilities here?

  3. In response to your comment on my blog…posted there as well.

    That’s a good point. Thanks for your comment. I’m wondering if you think there is such a thing as a “malicious hacker,” or those who are indeed criminals?

    Is there a difference between a soldier firing his weapon in war and a citizen firing a pistol on an unarmed city? The context of how the firearm is used determines how we speak about its legality. I don’t think we can say that all hacking is good, or that all hacking is bad. I probably did make such a hasty generalization in my original post – you’re right. But, I don’t think simply because a task requires a “sophisticated level of knowledge” that it automatically becomes an altruistic good, either.

    I admittedly know little about the hacker culture, but I’m sure there is a whole body of arguments for and against their manifestos. I would hold that both sides offer some validity.

    Thanks again for your comment – wondering what you think.

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