Real-Time Earthquakes and Technosocial Singularities

Geoloqi: 5.8 earthquake near Virginia on 8/23 1:51pm EDT. Depth: 6km

A Sudden Jolt

Currently I’m in Malmo, Sweden for a media evolution conference. I was asking some questions on Twitter when suddenly my “All Friends” timeline in Tweetdeck just exploded with tweets all about an earthquake in Virginia that was felt in New York. Earthquakes are one of the most fascinating things to watch on real-time networks. The speed at which the news tumbled in was breathtaking.

Real-Time Location-Based Notification Systems

One of the layers in the Geoloqi app is an Earthquake layer that will send out a message when an earthquake happens in your area that is 3.1 or above. Aaron and I checked the Geoloqi logs for evidence of the earthquake and found that a few messages had just been sent out to Geoloqi users in New York and Virginia. The Earthquake layer is an example of a location-based content subscription system.

Topic Compression on the Real-Time Web

I currently follow around 4,000 people on Twitter and am used to getting news in giant real-time chunks. During an earthquake or the death of a celebrity, social networks generally collapse into a single topic and tweet about it for a period of time after the event. Technically, it is a micro-singularity.

Event Singularities

We’ve had singularities before. Earthquakes in China, Haiti and Japan, the World Cup and Michael Jackson’s death. Every large newsworthy event presents a potential singularity now that many are linked in real-time. Twitter users who follow users in New York and Virginia just experienced a technosocial micro-singularity around news of the earthquake.

As the time and space it takes to send and receive information decreases, these kinds of micro-singularities will become increasingly common.

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