October 23, 2005

Rad Decision

A few months ago I blogged about Stewart Brand's Environmental Heresies, an article in Technology Review that recommended that environmentalists take a fresh look at nuclear power as a part of the way out of the mess we're in. I'm becoming sympathetic toward that view, as fusion power, zero-point energy, and unlimited ergs from Aladdin's lamp are nowhere near coming to fruition. Living in a coastal city, I find it easy to picture what a rise of a few feet in sea level is going to do to us. Something different has to happen, and soon.

According to its author, Steward Brand has endorsed Rad Decision, a techno-thriller about a nuclear power plant disaster. I've started to read it, and so far it's kept my interest like any good airport book. The author is an engineer at a nuclear power plant and he's intending it to be an entertaining way to learn more about the topic.

What's interesting to me beyond the topic, though, is the use of a blog as the means of pubishing the book. It's divided up into 37 episodes, each intended to be read in about 15 minutes. A new episode is posted three times a week and right now he's up to number 28.

Blogging, wikis, podcasts... all these things are intriguing because they are genres and tools that are still in their infancy. Rad Decision provides a case study of a mashup of edutainment and novel and soap opera and blog. Think of the design elements and choices the author made and that others will grapple with again:

  • Use reverse chronological order or not?
  • Plain text or illustrated?
  • Engage readers with comments on each posting or attach a forum to the whole b log?
  • Give the readers a vote on where the story goes next?
  • Bring in guest bloggers to add commentary as the story unfolds?
  • Link to educational resources as they become relevant?
  • Include suggested activities for classroom use?

The author has ended up on the simpler side of each question, but others who follow will take this idea in different directions. It's interesting to watch a new format like this emerge. This must be what is was like when movies first appeared. Or opera.



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