“It could have been a lot worse” was something that I haven’t heard when describing what happened yesterday. Like everything going on in the world it’s extremely difficult for me to understand how people deal with tragic events. One of the Sunday morning shows that I try to follow is This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Near the end of the program they do a in memoriam which eventually leads to the list of military deaths for the previous week. There’s the names, cities and probably most personal their age. It’s never easy to watch and even harder to understand, both for the families and friends that knew those people. Every morning I get the paper version of the NYT. I can’t recall one morning where the cover photo was actually something positive. I think that kind of stuff neutralizes the emotions of the average person watching from the sidelines. Obvious questions about how the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented will go on for a longtime. And tied into that will be the role of technology.
There’s been speculation about the email warning that was sent after the first shooting two hours afterwards. What if there had been communication sent out immediately, would it have made a difference? There’s even been questions about the what if scenario if there had been a school wide mass text message to students cell phones in the SF Gate. In instances like this, I think technology takes a back seat and more questions about the social and behavioural nature of reaction should be asked. I haven’t read anything yet, but I’m surprised to hear that there wasn’t more students from the first dorm area sending out text messages or phone calls to friends mentioning what they had heard or seen to other students. Maybe there was that communication, maybe not. If, and it’s a big if – if there had been that mention of someone getting shot, or that they had heard gun shots, it should have gone “viral” or in more concrete terms the social networks should have spread the message. But again the conversation goes circular – what would the message have been if it had been sent out, and what would people have done if they had adequate information? When there isn’t a lot of time, it’s extremely difficult to imagine the unimaginable.