On March 13, 2020, I subscribed to New York City's automated text system, Notify NYC, by sending a text to 692-692 with the word "COVID." Since that date, I have received 142 texts from the City about things ranging from new policies, tips for connecting with family, and information about service closures.
After receiving the first text message, I've been wondering who is behind these text messages and the longer-term strategy for the future. COVID-19, after all, isn't the a point-in-time emergency, like perhaps a wildfire or a hurricane. As many have noted, we may be in a "state of exception," 1 but that begs the question: How long with these texts last? Are these texts a new normal? Do they represent a way of thinking about municipal communication with citizens that might stick around? And more importantly, what do the texts tell us about the City that sends them?
I have started collecting the text messages into a spreadsheet to use as part of a larger archival project, which will continue into Summer 2020.