Social Media versus a Pandemic

Betty the pig and the sheepWe don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s all we can say. But since mainstream and broadcast news needs stories to keep filling up the column inches and rolling news hours, we’re seeing large amounts of speculation about what *might* happen, what effect we *might* see of pandemic swine flu and when that’s exhausted itself, we can have a wave of scepticism and cynical fun-poking at “over-reaction” while breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all OK.

This is all part of mainstream media’s schizophrenic stance on news and uncertainty. Swinging this way and that and promptly forgetting that today’s chip paper was the thing that they desperately wanted us to believe and buy yesterday.

Depending on your temperament, the effect of all this is either panic or complacency – neither states help you to assess the risk accurately or be ready to act if or when you need to.

It’s all helping me remember:

1. Thank God I’ve got a blog where I can say what *I* think today without worrying about it being taken as gospel, or worrying about anybody reading it at all. Also that I have so little invested in it that I can say half-baked stuff without fear of having it all taken away from me. I will probably change my mind tomorrow, but that makes me human, not stupid. I am comfortable (here at least!) with saying where I’ve been outright wrong.

2. I’m happy for my stuff to stick around on the web. Maybe it will be useful to someone today, maybe tomorrow, maybe sometime in September, maybe not (and for all values of “useful” including ‘finding some fat fool to have a laugh at’ and whatever I haven’t yet thought of)

3. There’s so much more we can do together than pass on information. We are not information processing machines and neither is this internet that we have made in our own image. We had the idea and carried it out, that’s all I wanted to do with it. So the movie below is released entirely into the public domain for you to do with it whatever you will.

4. The internet *is* for porn. Well, at least it’s for fun as well as for serious stuff. So that’s why, when faced with what to write or do about #swineflu I looked for something that would have more utility than playing aporkalyptic rhyming games (as fun as that may be)

I guess what I’m feeling about it all today is that we seem to be in a first mild wave that seems to be not as serious as we first thought, but if we are to Keep Calm and Carry On, isn’t it worth thinking about what we might do in the case of it getting worse, isn’t it a good time to have a good laugh now in case it all gets too serious to snigger at in a few months time?

We don’t know, none of us know, all we do know is that things can change very quickly and we forget what we thought we knew equally quickly.

In the spirit of this, if we get to a situation of serious pandemic, how might we act responsibly to protect others as well as ourselves? Are we mature enough to be able to think about that in time, recognising that if it gets bad quickly, we might not have much time to weigh up the evidence from research?

Well, one idea is the ultra-simple flu code proposed by Vinay Gupta and picked up this week by Wired. What I like about it is that it’s focus is not “How do we get away from The Infected” but more what can we all do to look after ourselves and each other.

Note: the code used here is v0.1 and subject to change – keep an eye on if you’re interested in how it develops (or doesn’t)

So on Friday, I got lots of help from my lovely allthisandbrainstoo collaborator Debbie Davies and Vinay himself to make an alternative public information film based on the code, just to throw another perspective into the mix and approach a serious subject with a bit of silliness.

For anyone without a sense of humour (folk like that do creep in here from time to time), let me be absolutely clear, we in the UK are not in a serious pandemic situation at the time of writing and making this film. I am not suggesting that you have to go out and do these things today. Neither am I suggesting that you follow the code in exactly the way portrayed in the film.

So yes, It’s silly, as you might expect, and I’m sure it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but our hope is that if you pass the video on, we might avoid passing disease on. Oh and kids, the bit at the end of the video is dangerous if copied at home – it’s just a joke, laugh at me, don’t try it yourselves.

PS the whole process of doing this was delayed a little because wouldn’t transcode stuff nicely no matter how hard Debbie hit it with a wrench. vimeo on the other hand, seems to rock.