Of zombies and design fiction

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency. emergency.cdc.govThe US-based Centre for Disease Control‘s Emergency Preparedness and Response unit recently started a media campaign to prepare people for real emergencies by getting them to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.

I love this idea, and not just because I’m part of the target audience. (I’ve probably seen every zombie movie ever made, read The Zombie Survival Guide as if it were non-fiction and have copies of The Walking Dead and World War Z on my bedside table to keep things in perspective.)

I love it because it’s a great example of how ethnographic fiction and speculative design can move people.

Seriously, when was the last time that emergency preparedness procedures got picked up by almost 1000 news outlets? Or spurred people to make interesting connections between broader scientific research and public health issues?

I love it because the CDC plans to run a video contest and a follow-up evaluation to see if their message actually makes people prepare for real emergencies. (I wish more critical design/design for debate projects would try to evaluate their impact!)

And I love it because I believe that all good researchers and designers explicitly acknowledge the limits of their approach and suggest who else might continue the work they began:

“One thing the agency won’t do, though, is suggest the best way to eliminate the zombie menace. ‘We’ll let the law enforcement folks make recommendations about weapons and chainsaws and guns’.”


CDC Emergency Preparedness
Zombiepedia: The Zombie Survival Wiki
NZ Get Ready, Get Thru
The Zombie Survival Guide
UK Resilience
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
Canada Get Prepared
The Walking Dead comics + TV series
Australia Emergency Management