South to the Future's World Wide Wire Service

Article excerpt

South to the Future writes and distributes news online. Like the Associated Press (AP), South to the Future makes its stories available to newspapers and Web sites. Like those of the AP or other news outlets, stories from South to the Future feature statistics, expert opinions, background details, and quotations from sources. Like the AP's, the stories are generally considered to be "true."

Unlike other news outlets, however, South to the Future incorporates fictional elements along with documented facts. Stories from South to the Future make their own sense; their hybridity, like that of the mule, serves only to make them stronger, heartier, more durable.

INFORMATION COMMODITY

INFORMATION ART POLITICS

NOISE NEWS

HISTORY NEWS NEW

Benjamin Franklin did it. In the 1720s, the printer, inventor, and statesman wrote a series of articles for the New England Courant using the identity of a woman named Silence Dogood. It was not uncommon then for writers to take on other identities for the purpose of pressing a point or expressing a point of view. Irony was certainly not lost on the newspaper reading audience in the early eighteenth century.

Like Franklin's, South to the Future's newsy yet fantastic blend of fact and fiction is true to itself. It looks simultaneously to the past and the future. It embraces the commodification of information and then proceeds to turn it into art.

But what is the South to the Future World Wide Wire Service? How can a fiction be considered a truth? What does consuming information commodities have to do with knowing what's going on. And how can distributed networks and virtual communities give a story life by making it their own?

We'll start to answer those questions by looking into what's at the bottom of this.

The South to the Future World Wide Wire Service is a weekly feed of technology, news, commentary and satire. Quotations attributed to public figures who are satirized are often true, but sometimes invented. Some fictional statements may, in fact, be true. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.

Thus reads the disclaimer that follows each weekly installment of the World Wide Wire Service. South to the Future has been distributing his new kind of news story via the Web since 1996.

Headline: "Christian Anti-Gambling Campaign Targets Wall Street."

Headline: "Ghetto 2000: Smart Public Housing."

Headline: "Camping Gear for the Homeless Article upsets some."

Headline: "PETA protests pet prozac: A petcare worker is arrested for taking custody of animals being fed antianxiety drugs against their will."

Headline: "Computers linked to illiteracy."

Before the World Wide Wire Service was picked up by the online edition of San Francisco's alternative weekly newspaper, it was distributed electronically to a mailing list of around 200 journalists. The stories mimic the style of an Associated Press dispatch but take their cue from the likes of Mark Twain. The idea was to create entertaining, sometimes apocalyptic news accounts based on current trends and events in technology, politics, and culture. Essentially literary "porno for journos," South to the Future set out to create a "trickle down effect," that is, to spark mainstream journalists to cover the critical issues ironically posited by World Wide Wire Service stories.

Journalists, however, tended to get stuck on our first question, that is, how a fiction can be considered a truth.

Prisoners Demand Cyberrights, Requesting Free Speech not Free Weights

This Associated Press-style story details the particulars of "Esteban Caliban and Ed Douglass v. the California Department of Corrections." With the help of attorney Michelle Foo-Kwo, two inmates serving life sentences sue for access to personal computers and the Internet.

Date: 31 Oct 1997

From: kelleher@hotwired. …