The Electro-Map Menagerie → March 20, 2003 Iraq

Today’s map is a respectful work of collective memory, in memoriam. It is the Iraq War Coalition Fatalities map.

The methodology of the map encompasses both time and space in a way other maps in the Menagerie have not done. Beginning in March, when the Iraq war officially began, and current up until February 13, 2007, the map depicts verified coalition fatalities as an animation overlaid upon a map of Iraq, showing 10 frames a second — one frame for each day. Every death is a tiny black dot, accompanied by a ticking sound which is softer or louder depending on the number of fatalities at any particular moment in time.

The criterion for verified fatalities as well as the source of the data are stated in the “about this project” section of the website. I cannot link directly to it however because the Javascript is written to encourage visitors to experience the map in a particular way. I highly recommend letting it run its course, and turning up the volume as well, even while reading the supplementary information.

I used to live in Asheville, North Carolina, and watching this map reminds me of a hotly contested billboard that was off a side street in downtown Asheville. Just after the war began, someone rented both sides of a tiny little billboard and kept a running tally (updated roughly weekly for a time) of coalition fatalities, as well as officially stated coalition force numbers and roughly estimated civilian casualties. After a time, as the war continued to grow economically and humanly burdensome, resentment about the billboard began also to grow in conservative communities, until one day a privately hired poster-board company was caught in flagrante delicto, pasting a pro-war advertisement over the already rented billboard. Once exposed, the company undid their work and claimed to not know that they were performing an illegal act, and as far as I know there was never a civil suit against them, or against the group that hired them. I eventually came to know those who posted the list of fatalities, and one of them had a son who, at the time, was serving in Iraq…

I dedicate today’s Electro-Map to that Hilliard Avenue billboard. (My only regret is that I could not find an equivalent project detailing civilian casualties, which would undoubtedly be louder and more active, but much less accurate.)

Tomorrow, an Electro-Linguistic spaghetti bowl.

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