Monday, September 12, 2011

CNN - 9/11 Memorial – An Interconnected Personal Story

Last night on CNN we discussed the 9/11 Memorial.   I wanted to share the details from the story on how tech played an interesting role.

Surrounding the two memorial pools of water are 76 bronze plates with name etchings of the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11.  But it was decided these names were not to be alphabetized, placed in a gird or at random, instead the names were affixed in "meaningful adjacencies" taking in to calculation 1,800 personal requests.  Names were to be placed with friends, family or coworkers or even as instant bonds that were formed only on the day of the attacks.  A layout of this nature was only made possible by a complex computer algorithm. 

You might be saying well why is this complex to lay out?  First realize they were dealing with 76 large bronze panels.  The names not only had to be grouped and subgrouped but also typography issues come in to play.  How many names can fit on a panel?  Can a name span two panels?  Also, take in to account certain letters cannot be placed next to each other --- example: a name that ends with a T cannot be placed next to a first name that starts with a J. 

To achieve the success of 'meaningful adjacencies' they turned to a group Local Projects here in NYC.  Local Projects then hired a freelance computer programmer Jer Thorp to create the computer algorithm.  I had the chance to speak to Jer and he told me it took one month to create the software and another 6 months to tweak.

Jer told me he was interested in “The idea of technology interfacing with humans in this creative context… a computer could do what it was really good at and people were able to do what they were really good at resulting in a symbiosis of people and computers.”

Using this software to arrange the names created some interesting stories and realizations:

·      Cantor Fitzgerald (a financial services firm) lost 704 employees that tragic day, a loss so great it fills up half the bronze slabs around one of the pools, showing the pure impact of the attack on the group.

·      And another interpersonal is the story of the Vigiano brothers.  The Vigianos were first responders, aged 34 and 36 at the time of the attacks and both are now forever memorialized side by side. 

So, how do you find a name?
There will be kiosks at the the memorial but you can also use tech in your search. 

To locate the names and get a brief bio you can go to which maps out the entire site.

The app Memorial Guide is now available also can help you find anyone. 

Local Projects created this app along with the memorial. 

And on a final note, Jake Barton of Local Projects who worked on the memorial, shared these thoughts “It’s amazing that in the memorial itself are still these very real emotional human histories that are represented by these abstractions of bronze panels.  Each name is a life that lived- in each space are all these incredible relationships - inscribed inside of bronze plate for all time."

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