During the coverage of the disaster in Mumbai, one of the channels played a two minute tape of a man talking about his experience of having been trapped in one of the hotels for 40 hours. The speaker, a Brit I think, spoke clearly and analytically. He had mapped out his little story before hand in his head. Every detail was to the point.
Perhaps because some students in my research paper class on consumerism are writing reports on the communications revolution, roughly, the Web 2.0 as some are calling it, I paid close attention when the man mentioned his Blackberry. He had decided, rather than to try to make a break for it, to hole up in his room for the duration. And while he was trapped he began somehow to communicate with other people trapped through out the hotel through his Blackberry and they through theirs.
He was a tech person, he said, and had helped to set up (I don’t know what he meant or how he had done it) a method (who knows, perhaps a message board) by which the people in the hotel were more able easily to communicate with each other. He had no food for 40 hours, and he said that while it might be possible to go a week without food or three days without water, it would not have been possible to endure those 40 hours without—and I had expected him to say communication with other people—“information.” Information, he continued, had been absolutely necessary to his ability to control his situation.
Honestly, I couldn’t follow him on that. I don’t see how information coming to him, say from the other side of the hotel, helped him control his situation. I think rather than having the information that, say, police were visible from one angle of the building might have helped him feel in control that this information did not put him at all in control of it. I think he might better have said that without the information he might have gone crazy not knowing what was up—what with smoke coming under the door and the sounds of people outside running up and down the corridor. But of course too he was perhaps able to tap into the internet and get reports from outside the building on the course of events.
I wonder if the police and other officials were aware of the Blackberry communications going on in the hotel. They might have tapped into those to gather information themselves and to supply it.
I see the potential for a movie of the week in this—along the lines of a film like “The Poseidon Adventure.” Different kinds and sorts of people (nice people and of course bad people) trapped in a hotel with gunfire outside and inside. And the usual suspense of such films—who will survive and who won’t. I suppose a plot with people trapped in their rooms might be pretty dull; but then it might be told in a somewhat different way, through text messaging, message boards, and images captured by cell phones.
I will have to ask my students how a messaging system of this sort could be set up so quickly.
I think maybe I should buy a Blackberry.