Part of the first sentence of “Personal Dynamic Media” provoked thoughts about the ways that images, both digital and non-digital, can represent quantifiable human behaviors. The relevant phrase is that the Xerox group is interested in “all aspects of the communication and manipulation of knowledge.” The two images posted below are two very different ways of communicating knowledge about the spread of disease across time and space. Image 1 is a map from an 1892 publication, Die Influenza-Epidemie 1889/90, which some students found on the research trip to the National Library of Medicine on March 7. The map shows the outbreak of disease by two week periods across Europe. Image 2 comes from the Flu Near You project, which uses reports about symptoms submitted by individuals using smart phones and other devices. On the website, the map can be set in motion and it is also possible to focus in on specific areas.
Image 1: Outbreak of Influenza Epidemic in Europe, 1889-1890
Image 2: Flu Near You, March 20, 2014 (https://flunearyou.org/)
Both maps are visual representations of human behavior that can be tracked quantitatively (number of victims, dates, and locations). The connection between Image 2 and the reading is obvious, as “personal dynamic media” are now being used on a massive scale to track human behavior. While Image1 has its limits (it can’t be put into motion and the scale cannot be adjusted), there is something about the simplicity and directness of the information that is attractive. The tension between these two maps is suggestive of the seminar themes, as we ask what is gained, and what is lost, by communicating and manipulating knowledge through a digital medium.