Interesting. Security Dominates Last-Minute Super Bowl Concerns. Social Media,


A senior partner at Populous, a world-renowned design practice based in Kansas
City, Missouri, Anderson oversees the firm’s event group. His responsibilities
for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV include setting up and overseeing
nearly every logistical facet that goes into running the game, not to mention
all the events in the weeks and months leading up to it.
Whether it’s real estate acquisition planning, crowd flow management or the
installation of temporary infrastructure, Anderson has his fingers on it. “We
re-design an entire stadium for the specific program requirements of the event
itself — the Super Bowl,” Anderson told
Anderson began working two years in advance for planning Super Bowl events at
Cowboys Stadium, which is a customary practice for such a large event. One of
the primary issues he tackles first is the cabling system for telecommunications
and wireless networks.
“We’re living in what I would call a crossover era now where, even though we
do have cellular technology — RF technology — you still have such an enormous
demand for reliability and redundancy,” Anderson said. “Hardware is still the
rule on a lot of things.”
Areas for broadcasters’ work areas, broadcast booths, and writing, work and
interview areas for the press have to be altered. An expansive wireless network
must be in place to handle the massive amount of activity expected from a group
of over 5,000 media members who are credentialed to cover the Super Bowl.
(Anderson pointed out there are normally 200 for regular-season games.)

The massive increase of photographers and broadcasters is reflected in the
numbers: 8,000 linear feet of duct tape and 140,000 linear feet of electrical
cable is provided for media, as well as 1,430 square feet allotted for camera
There are times when all the coordination in the world still can’t prevent
someone from bringing in a device that disrupts the game. Anderson recalled a
mixup in 1998 at Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego. A member of the media sneaked in
a transmitter which hadn’t had its frequency coordinated. When the time came for
pop singer Jewel to sing the national anthem, the unsuspecting media person’s
transmitter stopped the signal that went to Jewel’s earpiece. “She didn’t know
the anthem had started because she couldn’t hear it on her earpiece,” Anderson
Perhaps no issue requires more attention for the Super Bowl and its related
events than security. While local police and fire departments oversee plans,
regional, state and federal law enforcement departments help plan and coordinate
all issues.
Anderson noted that since 9/11, security requirements for the Super Bowl have
risen to those of the most secured events in the world, including the Olympics
and the U.S. Presidential Inauguration.
Eight miles of chain-link fencing — wrapped with fence fabric for aesthetic
purposes — is temporarily installed for the 1.5-to-2 million square feet of
space around the stadium. More than 3,000 feet of concrete barriers surrounding
the stadium guarantee more protection. And visitors to the 200,000-plus square
feet of temporary tents installed for parties, work areas and other needs will
find that magnetometers and X-ray machines scan them just as thoroughly as they
do in airports.
Then there’s crowd flow planning. Anderson said over 100,000 people are
expected in the stadium on game day — 93,000 ticketed fans, 10,000 credentialed
workers (including vendors and security), and 2,000 NFL staff and management
types. Populous brought in 14,000 temporary seats (see below) to accommodate the
80,000-seat stadium.

And that’s not to mention the 5,000 fans who are expected to pay a $200
grounds pass to watch the game on a giant TV outside the stadium.
Anderson said 1,700 media members were allowed on the field for interviews
during Tuesday’s Media Day. Today, 2,000 members of the cast and crew for the
pregame and halftime shows will go through practice drills, and stadium tours
throughout the week have brought in 1,000-2,000 people a day.
Obviously, Anderson and his crew of 20 have much to coordinate. The
convenience of ticket scanners in the last five years have allowed Anderson to
review past Super Bowls to assess when people arrive to stadium parking lots,
and in what quantity. Since checkpoints open five hours before game time — the
stadium doors open four hours before the game — people could filter in by noon
local time if weather conditions are pleasant.
The goal is to never keep people waiting in line, during peak hours, for
longer than 20 minutes, although Anderson said they prefer waits take no longer
than 10-15 minutes. In case people need to “go” while in line, up to 298
porta-potties dot the areas outside Cowboys Stadium.
Once ticketed fans make it inside the stadium, they can use any of the 8,000
temporary signs to find their way around. Anderson summed up the complicated
nature of safely and efficiently directing people around the venue: “It’s a
little bit like trying to blend science and art.”
Once the game ends Sunday night, Anderson doesn’t exactly get to kick back
and relax. He’ll travel immediately to the Stadium Managers Conference in
Huntington Beach, California, which takes place February 6-10. Then it’s off to
planning for the NHL’s outdoor Heritage Classic in Calgary, Alberta, which is to
be played Feb. 20. After that, there’s the NCAA Final Four in March, the NFL
Draft in New York City in April and the MLB All-Star Game in Phoenix in July.
And Populous just completed its responsibilities at the NFL’s Pro Bowl
in Hawaii last week and the Denver Big Air event, a two-day ski and snowboard
competition, which took place Jan. 25-26.
It all seems like a whirlwind of activity, but Anderson isn’t fazed. He’s
been the coordinating architect for the last 26 Super Bowls, in addition to the
myriad of worldwide sporting events he helps plan each year.
For now, his concentration is on the Super Bowl in Dallas, where he’ll run
one of the more complex gameday operations Populous has ever done.
“It’s a pretty cool time for us,” he said.
Photos: Courtesy Populous All Rights Reserved


  Gladwell Still Missing the Point About Social Media and Activism

After weeks of discussion in the blogosphere over whether what happened in
Tunisia was a “Twitter revolution,” and
whether social media also helped trigger the current anti-government uprising in
Egypt, author Malcolm Gladwell — who wrote a widely-read New Yorker
article about how inconsequential social media is
when it comes to “real” social activism — has finally weighed in with his
thoughts. But he continues to miss the real point about the use of Twitter and
Facebook, which is somewhat surprising for the author of the best-seller The
Tipping Point.

Although the topic of social media’s role in events in Tunisia and Egypt has
been the focus of much commentary from observers such as Ethan Zuckerman and Jillian York of Global Voices
Online, and also from Foreign Policy magazine columnist and author Evgeny Morozov, the response from Gladwell was all of
about 200 words long. In a somewhat defensive tone, he suggested that if Chinese
Communist leader Mao Zedong had made his famous statement about how “power grows from the barrel of a gun” today, everyone
would obsess over whether he made it on Twitter or Facebook or his Tumblr blog.
Gladwell concluded that while there is a lot that can be said about the protests
in Egypt:

Surely the least interesting fact about them is that some of the protesters
may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the
new media to communicate with one another. Please. People protested and brought
down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet
came along.

In other words, as far as the New Yorker writer is concerned, the
use of any specific communications tools — whether that happens to be cellphones
or SMS or Twitter or Facebook — may be occurring, and may even be helping revolutionaries in
countries like Egypt
in some poorly-defined way, but it’s just not
that interesting. This seems like an odd comment coming from someone
who wrote a book all about how a series of small changes in the way people think
about an issue can suddenly reach a “tipping point” and gain widespread appeal,
since that’s exactly what social media does so well.
Gladwell is not the only doubter
Gladwell isn’t the only one who has taken a skeptical stance when it comes to
the use of social media in such situations. Foreign Policy writer
Morozov is also the author of a book called “Net Delusion,” in which he argues
that the views of some “cyber-utopians” are
in danger of distorting political discourse to the point where some politicians
think that all people require in order to overthrow governments is Internet
access and some Twitter followers. This view was echoed in a recent piece in
BusinessWeek entitled “The Fallacy of Facebook Diplomacy,” which argued that “the idea that
America can use the Internet to influence global events is more dream than
But as sociology professor Zeynep Tufekci argues in a blog post responding to
Gladwell — and as we argued in a recent post here — the
point is not that social media tools like Twitter and Facebook cause revolutions
in any real sense. What they are very good at doing, however, is
connecting people in very simple ways
, and making those connections
in a very fast and widely-distributed manner. This is the power of a networked
society and of cheap, real-time communication networks.
Weak ties can also connect to and become strong ties
As Tufekci notes, what happens in social networks is the creation of what
sociologist Mark Granovetter called “weak ties” in a seminal piece of research in the
1970s (PDF link) — that is, the kinds of ties you have to your broader network
of friends and acquaintances, as opposed to the strong ties that you have to
your family or your church. But while Gladwell more or less dismissed the value
of those ties in his original New Yorker piece, Tufekci argues that
these weak ties can become connected to our stronger relationships, and that’s
when real change — potentially large-scale global change — can occur.

New movements that can bring about global social change will still require
people who interact with each other regularly, and trust and depend on each
other in somewhat dense networks. Or only hope is if those networks span the
globe in a tightly-knit, broad web of activity, interaction, personalization.
Real change will come only if we can make friends we care about everywhere and
we make bridge ties that cover the world in a web of common

That’s not to say that the question of who is using which social-media tool
is inherently more interesting than the actual human acts of bravery and risks
that people in Tunisia and Egypt have taken, or are taking. But those tools and
that activity can bring things to a tipping point that might otherwise not have
occurred, or spur others (possibly even in other countries) to do something
similar. Why else would governments like Mubarak’s be so quick to shut down the
Internet and cellphone networks? And that is interesting — or should be
— regardless of what Malcolm Gladwell might think.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d):

Post and thumbnail courtesy of Flickr user Rosauro Ochoa

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