Mapping the Inauguration
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Today in Washington, D.C., at a meeting of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, a 40-by-40-foot map being used to plan out next month's presidential inauguration was revealed to the public.
One can't help but be utterly fascinated by the image of military personnel swarming around this map or looking on from above in the bleachers to play out scenarios of what will happen and what might happen in a sort of cartographic war game. They aren't scheming an invasion of some foreign shore but rather the invasion of the nation's capital by the populace.
Parade routes are highlighted, staging areas parceled out, and observation platforms and giant viewing screens placemarked. Critical to any large events, outflow zones are delineated, first aid stations positioned, and emergency evacuations modeled to determine the best way to control the incoming flood and counteract any disastrous perturbation. Equally important to these security measures, a mobile sewage infrastructure (i.e., porta-potties and pump trucks) to be grafted temporarily onto the grid is also being devised.
But wouldn't it have been incredible to learn that they are using wall-to-wall (or floor-to-floor) touch screens instead? Or how about that gigantic LCD screen used during the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies? And that this “magic floor” is networked to tablet PCs and Blackberries and maybe even to iPhones? In the stands are federal and local officials working collaboratively and interactively at constructing strategies and counter-strategies, all the while seeing their work evolving right before them on the armory floor. While the majority may be participating in the process semi-remotely, others do so by literally standing on the screen: hands, feet and even whole bodies manipulating the digitized city in an orgy of multi-touch urban planning.
Or what about an airplane hangar retrofitted into the world's biggest CAVE™? During the inauguration, it would serve as the tactical command center.
Of course, all of this would be overkill; the analog map is sufficient enough. But what about when, at some future inauguration of an even more grotesquely popular president-elect, tens of millions of people are expected to descend upon the city on that one day?