Saturday, November 01, 2008


Carl Phillips returns.

Twitter was abuzz tonight with reports of an alien invasion à la Orson Welles's famous October 30, 1938 radio broadcast that, in a groundbreakingly creative adaptation of H.G. Wells's
The War of the Worlds, caused a nationwide panic and solidified Welles's media career. Tonight's Twitter version, to save the masses from a similar reaction, tagged posts with #wotw2.

I write about it here because I think that this was a really clever and fun idea. In particular, as someone who has worked heavily in various forms of new media, as well as being a long-time fan of the dramatic radio of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, I was struck by the ingenuity of how Welles's idea was updated for the age in which we now live; to me, this seemed like a natural evolution of the concept, though I hadn't thought about it before I first read about this. TIME has an interesting piece looking at the original broadcast in retrospect, and drawing further parallels between the public reaction it inspired and present-day politics.

Finding new ways to utilize existing forms of media -- and keeping it simultaneously fun and safe.* I think Orson Welles would have been proud.

Download the .mp3 of the original October 30, 1938 radio broadcast here, along with a number of other Mercury Theater programs from the time.

* The 1938 radio broadcast did include a disclaimer at the beginning (not unlike the "#wotw2" tags here), though many people either forgot about it once it got underway due to the seeming verisimilitude of the news reports, or had tuned in late and missed the notice.

Thanks to these sites as the sources for the various parts of this post's graphic.

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