Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

The Heartwarming Adventures of #SFBatkid and the Thrill of the Hunt for Carmen Sandiego

When done well, blending fiction with reality is one of those things that makes social media worth all the hype. In San Francisco today, a Make-a-Wish campaign to turn a five-year-old with leukemia into a superhero was been widely publicized by local outlets, drawing crowds of thousands to see his adventures in person, and is blowing up on Twitter and Facebook today with the hashtag #SFBatkid.

(It’s crazy; look at the tweets fly by. Internet phenomena seem to get more viral by the day.)

So far, Batkid (a.k.a. Miles Scott) saved a damsel in distress on the cable car tracks and helped apprehend the Riddler with the help of Batman and local police, all the while being cheered by crowds. Now, a flash mob has alerted Batkid that Penguin kidnapped the Giants’ Lou Seal at AT&T Park, and then Batkid will head to City Hall where the mayor will give him a key to Gotham. You can follow the heartwearming adventure on Storify and via live video coverage.

If you’re not in San Francisco, or if you tune in after the festivities have finished, there’s another caper you can follow online. This one requires less Kleenex.

The social media team at PBS has revived Carmen Sandiego, the fictional international criminal, for a weekly geography game on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. It’s all tied together by the hashtag #CatchingCarmen and a RebelMouse page that aggregates the clues and the winning responses.

Sandiego starred in a boxed computer software geography game in the 1980s and 1990s as well as a televised kids’ game show. For nerdy kids who grew up in that era watching public television, this is a major nostalgia trigger.

PBS is playing up the nostalgia by tying into the Internet tradition of posting old photos on so-called #ThrowbackThursday. So far, the clues led gumshoes to the Lincoln Memorial and Red Rocks Amphitheater. And they’re not necessarily easy or obvious; an envelope with a return address including the zip code 82664 was meant to signify the date the Beatles played Red Rock: August 26, 1964.

PBS digital marketing director Kevin Dando said in an interview today that the game isn’t meant to promote anything (besides PBS), as there’s no planned revival of the TV show. The stunt is planned to last eight weeks, and local PBS stations are participating by providing footage of the locations that Dando’s team can green-screen their Sandiego onto.

Chasing Carmen Sandiego won’t make you feel better about humanity the way Batkid will, but it’s just plain fun.

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