Chilean miners… update

It looks like the Chilean miners are close to be extricated! Great news and I wish I could be there, not only to cheer but also to learn more about how survivors communicate with “those above.” CRASAR was contacted about assisting with the search for the trapped miners, but the demands were even more extreme for a robot than at the Crandall Canyon, Utah, mine collapse so there was nothing workable. Fortunately the miners were found! Though with a long extrication time (months).

Cliff Nass, our partner at Stanford on the Survivor Buddy project, and I had always thought of victim management in terms of days, not weeks and months! We were hoping to actually go down to the rescue. We have been working on the topic of how trapped survivors can use social media communicate with responders and families and be less stressed for over 3 years. Cliff is a world expert in media– how people work with and through computers, television, radio, etc. – and so Cliff and I joined forces with funding from the National Science Foundation and Microsoft External Research to consider how trapped survivors, elders and shut-ins, etc. will use multi-media devices such as a robot ) that finds them or other media (ipods, tvs, videoconference). Dr. Cindy Bethel’s PhD thesis found that the way a robot is regularly used to investigate rubble and people is… well, creepy. Creepy to the point of causing measurable physiological stress.

Cliff and I offered our services to the Ministry through the National Science Foundation, though it sounded like the situation was well under control, and requested that we be allowed to collect data on how the miners are using media to communication, entertain themselves, etc., and what’s working/not working. For example, a news report said that the miners requested individual ipods but were denied so that they would stay together- that is certainly interesting to us, because it’s consistent with the miners trapped in the Beaconsfield mine and that everyone wants multi-media versus just talking to someone.  We wanted to see if we could get access to the “data stream” (or even make sure the data needed for social media research is collected), logbooks, or the response/support team- if only remotely as this data is vital to systems that would improve telemedicine or any situation where someone is isolated for long periods of time. Our focus on media (how) complements the psychological support to the miners and families (what and why)- which NASA helped advise them on.

We’ve just learned that after over a month of requests and processing, our request has been turned down. We’re trying to find avenues through local Chilean researchers (who have been terrific) and NASA to get access to the data through them– while there isn’t anything we can do for the miners, we believe there is valuable research and lessons to be learned for “the next time.”