Michael Jackson: Information Overload

By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

The headline at CNN is “Michael Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him.” Obviously a bit of an exaggeration, but it still seems fitting that if one man’s fame could single-handedly break the Internet, it would be the King of Pop. The overload even caused AOL (after AIM was down for a shocking 40 minutes on Thursday afternoon) to release a statement saying, “Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth.”

I’m not entirely sure that I agree with that statement; it may have been almost eight years ago, but my “where were you when you heard” moment for 9/11 involves being completely unable to access any news sites online. I imagine that if Twitter had existed at the time, it would have been even more widely utilized than it was last week – but even for Michael Jackson’s death, the “fail whale” was ubiquitous and apparently the protesters in Iran who were using Twitter for communication were left in the lurch. I suppose the difference between now and eight years ago are the number of people using the Internet to spread information as opposed to just retrieving it.

Still, could this possibly go down as the “biggest mobile event in history” (so far, I assume)?

As an interesting aside, here’s a comment on the easy manipulation of Google trends: on Friday the only search term that beat Michael Jackson’s death was about the death of another “celebrity,” Tippy Tom, a homeless man in New York City who was a frequent guest on the Opie and Anthony XM radio show. The show’s fans (or “pests”) have had a lot of success in the past pushing up seemingly random search terms to the top of the trends for short periods of time, though this seems to be the most impressive feat so far, considering that even Fox News gave a nod to Tippy Tom’s death.

In any case, I think that the attention paid to the technology aspect of things and the flow of information is appropriate for a truly geek-worthy music icon. Not only did he provide an iconic image of zombies, but he was a fan of gadgets and had a patent on those leaning shoes in “Smooth Criminal.” Added to the death of infamous pitch man Billy Mays, and it was indeed a sad week for cool inventions.

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