I just finished watching the fascinating video of a 3D representation of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center created by a bunch of researchers at Purdue. The goal was to create a visual representation to illustrate how the planes managed to destroy the buildings primary support structures, even though the architects had themselves planned for the possibility of a plane crash. Rather than a gory re-creation of the event, it’s a dispassionate, technical treatise on the attack, with a simple moral : Build Stronger Buildings.
Meanwhile, I finally got around, years later, to playing the controversial flash game "New York Defender" after Clive Thompson of Wired talked about it at Games for Change a couple of weeks ago. The game succeeds at being simultaneously entertaining, offensive and thought-provoking. To me at least the message was clear: You can’t win the war on terror by shooting down things.
It’s made me think about how media of all sorts can help us to understand and enrich our experience of even a life-changing event like 9/11. Whether its mass market media like the movie "World Trade Center" or raw virtual recreations of the two towers in Second Life, these forms of media tell us a story about the event, provide value judgments and morals, and tell us who we in the wake of the disaster.
Are we more fearful, xenophobic, and reactionary? Or are we safer, braver, kinder, better prepared? The most compelling media help us answer those questions.