I have a confession to make. Two, actually.
First, I really like the movie Warm Bodies. It’s sweet, and any movie that puts Feist, the National, and the Mynabirds on its soundtrack has me in the palm of its hand.
Second, when I’m watching movies, or reading books, I get all librarian on the characters. An untold number of stories rely on the revelation of new information to the characters to advance the plot. Sometimes, the protagonist receives this new information unexpectedly: think of the classic accidental eavesdropper scenes. I prefer the intentional searches, though: will the character accurately identify the information they need? Where will they choose to look? These intentional searches say a lot about how people in the specific places and times interact with information. Most of the time, the characters get derailed in their search for information, coming back with the wrong information or no information at all. This serves the plot well, but, as a librarian, I try to figure out how they could have made their search a success.
I know, kind of geeky. But fun.
In Warm Bodies (end of the clip above), Nora’s line–“I wish the Internet still worked so I could look up what’s wrong with you!”–is not the start of an epic quest for information. It’s more of a joke, actually: a joke for us, the audience. In a post apocalyptic world, the teens would be well aware that medical information must be gleaned from medical texts that have been scavenged from ruined hospitals outside the city.
But in our world, we look things up on the Internet.
This is all well and good for casual searches–“Hey, what movie was that guy in before?”–but we have come to expect that we can plug some random words into Google (or your search engine of choice) and get accurate, complete information in the first five results. What’s more, we assume that the source that provides us with our information will be an authority.
Um, not the case.
Don’t get me wrong: there is some great information available on the open web. Take, for instance, MedlinePlus. Its content is curated by the National Institute of Health, and would be an awesome place to look for information on zombie Stockholm Syndrome, if the Internet were to survive a zombie apocalypse. Heck, you don’t even have to go to a library or get a librarian’s help for that one. I like to think the resourceful, practical Nora would start her search at Medline Plus.
But MedLine plus is a small island in a big, messy ocean. We all laugh when Nora wishes for “the Internet,” because at one time or another, every single one of us has done a sloppy Google search and called it real research. But this librarian laughs with a little sigh, because most people know that the Internet is full to brimming with incomplete, inaccurate information, and yet they continue to gobble this information up like zombies.