Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes

I’m running one small cell in a global COVID testing panopticon, part of history’s greatest biosurveillance operation.

Olivia needs to be COVID tested twice-weekly as a condition of participating in the day program at Stars for Life. On top of this, our off-Island travel last week brought with it a days 0, 2, and 4 testing requirement on return.

So there’s been a lot of swab, dip, swoosh, squeeze, drip, “Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes“ action here of late. All of it negative to date.

As a student of design and communications I’m fascinated by the test kit variants: the different ways of providing the testing medium, the different swabs, the instruction sheets (varying from a single badly-photocopied sheet to detailed multicoloured booklets). Some kits use three drops, some four, some six. Some instructions show the swab painlessly tucked in the nose, some in contact with the brain stem.

I’ve been trying, so far in vain, to make contact with the Korean provider of beautifully-designed silica gel packs in one of the variants. I just want to laud their attention to detail.

And these kits need to be usable by anyone, regardless of literacy level, mother tongue, disability. What an enormous challenge.

With the world’s testing literacy increased by all this flurry, I wonder if we might ramp up parallel citizen-science operations on other topics: water quality, shoreline erosion, traffic counting.

In the meanwhile, more swab, dip, swoosh, squeeze, drip, “Alexa, set a timer for 15 minutes.“