If America's Funniest Home Videos teaches any (obvious) lesson, it's that people love to watch accidents. It's a grim pastime, but beloved anyway. Now a Twitter bot called american injuries, which provides some of that voyeuristic pleasure without gore and as an odd sort of literature.
American injuries was created and put up by Quartz reporter Keith Collins in mid-January. The bot draws on the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS collects information about injuries that are "associated with consumer products" from a sample of U.S. hospitals in order to estimate what it refers to as "product-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms" throughout the U.S.
But the information needed for a statistical model for product risk assessment also provides perfect, discrete sets of information for a mesmerizing bot. A brief description of the injury, the age and sex of the person injured, and the product involved turn into medical short stories. Shorn of context some are funny:
Or just quotidian:
And that's entirely the point. Collins didn't offer any particular reason for making the bot (though perhaps it needs no justification). He simply noted that his creation "ranges from sad to hilarious, mundane to gross."
American Injuries joins what is a growing corner of the medical internet. There's the library of horrors that WebMD can become, of course, and Figure One, an app for doctors to share photos that has its own odd following. But those lack the found poetry that some of the posts us injuries has already conjured up have. They provide stark, unintentional glimpses into the day-to-day life of the American consumer.
Be careful with your products.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org