The end of May is always a special time in Mississippi; the weather creeps up towards the 90s, flip-flops are the it-accessory for every outfit, and visions of young people dressed in caps and gowns with the smiles of hope and excitement of the endless possibilities that are in store for them in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Sadly this celebration was shadowed with tragedy as an outgoing teen was taken from this earth too soon by what could be over a neglected oversite.

On the 17th of the summer month, 18-year-old Frances Fortner was driving down Ridgewood Road in the Capitol City of Jackson in her mother’s convertible when she ran over a manhole causing the vehicle to flip over to her death. What made things worse was that Fortner was driving to her Jackson Academy graduation rehearsal.

Fortner was well-loved by her classmates. The principal ballet dancer was accepted to the University of Missouri’s prestigious journalism program where she was planning to become a news reporter.

A local news station reported that the City of Jackson hired Superior Asphalt who resurfaced the street that same day but did not complete the job and left an open manhole, with no caution barricades, exposed. Witnesses saw several cars drive over the obstruction, earlier that day,  appearing to cause damage to their vehicles before Fortner making contact with the uncovered manhole.

“It definitely could have been prevented,” said a witness, “had somebody just cared a little bit, you know, and radioed a police officer to go park in front of it until the city could come [to] fix it. Completely preventable,”

So how could this story be told in a different way? Using one of the newest forms of storytelling called Empathic Media could be the answer.

Bangor University Professor Andrew McStay says empathic media is a collect-all-term to refer to affect-sensitive technologies employed to make influences about emotions, feelings, moods, perspective, attention, and intention. Artificial Intelligence compliments this format to transmit the scene of the untimely death.

If an experiment was a possibility, the hypothesis would be to use empathic media to give an accurate reenactment of the crash experienced by witnesses during the car crash that left Frances Fortner dead. A field test would be administered to witnesses, homeowners of the neighborhood and law enforcement and first responders that were present at the scene of the accident. A brief survey will be taken by the participants, after the completion of the evaluation, to determine accuracy and which will determine the success rate of the experiment.

By allisonjoyner

Born in Mobile. Raised in Birmingham. Educated in Atlanta. Adulated in Jackson. And back in the ATL.

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