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zombie real Estately survival map

March 27, 2014

“Hey, did you see this yesterday” Erica Phillips tweeted to make sure that I (and other zombie scholars) saw her WSJ blog post about the new zombie survival map from Estately.

WSJ: “Is Your State Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?”

Estately: “U.S. States Most And Least Likely To Survive The Zombie Apocalypse

Estately is a real estate company. As they say:

Estately is an addictive, easy way to shop for homes.

Their new map has gone viral with numerous reports across local news networks each citing their state’s performance. This proves again, zombies make good copy. And here again we see zombies coupled with issues of data analysis (see drunk math), and us-them politics (the Estately map is two colors – see false dichotomies – WSJ’s five colors is maybe a little less false but still deceptive), and then also it’s real estate zombies.

Except wait, this usage of zombie real estate is not the same zombie real estate that this ZombieLaw.wordpress blog has been covering thus far. This new map is related to survival preparedness skills (though questionable validity on their measure choices). It’s still about real estate because it’s supposedly about where to buy a house to live with others who have these skills. But the zombies are monsters not mortgage-debt.

Is this a watershed moment in zombie real estate? Is this the metaphor shifting away from zombie foreclosures and zombie banks? Is the widespread coverage of these new maps an attempt to redirect the zombie word back towards (fictional)-monsters that you fight with military and survivalist training and away from banks and mortgages?

If zombies have become a term of art in real estate, popularized by Daren Blomquist at RealtyTrac, and recently used by New York’s Attorney General Schneiderman and New York’s U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, then is this Estately article a direct challenge to that politcal rhetoric?

In that rhetoric, zombies are remnant monsters from the 2008 world banking crisis. That bubble was built on collateralized mortgages, when robo-signing machines wrote notes faster than the humans could pay them, and the collapse left many properties in various levels of limbo. Studies still report that many large banks remain too big to fail, and are precariously positioned if another shock hits the system. In this metaphor set, the zombies are the abandoned homes, but also the lost homeowners, with implications of vagrant trespassers and drug dens, but also businesses on the verge of bankruptcy, borrowing too much to keep the business afloat for much longer.

So that’s the zombie real estate metaphor set when along comes Estately with an arbitrary us-them map of states fighting zombies? It looks like a political map. Truly, all state by state analyses are political, unless we think zombie monsters would care about jurisdictional borders? So here’s a map based on the sums of rank-orders of arbitrarily selected variables, and then split at the midpoint for a stark contrast of red and green? The WSJ version with five gradients of color, (a notable difference for Texas, and maybe also Virginia, Florida, Michigan) but still this color shading scale is arbitrary.

Who cares? Arbitrary data is fun. Adding levity, Estately tweeted @FiveThirtyEight with a plea for help;

Any advice on how to deal with commenters insulting your data when writing about zombies?

Haha – yes, block the spammers, feed the trolls!!

Overall, this Estately article highlights the viral nature of zombies, and data visualizations, and political maps, and represents both the problems of this kind of data and the fun of it. Simultaneously, this art functions to blur other emerging political metaphors. What better way to blur political speech than with corporate noise…

Then again, I don’t think “zombie” was a particularly helpful metaphor for foreclosures. It’s not mindless monsters, it’s banks refusing to negotiate reasonably with people who are still aggrieved from 2008 losses. So foreclosures are still in crisis, but now “zombie” real estate is about military/veterans (with no accounting for disabilities?) and guns and paintball. So for Estately, zombies are fictional monsters, not banking solvency. That’s not wrong. Still, foreclosure victims need help too.

So which are the real zombies? Probably, the real zombies are the fictional kind (which is in itself pretty funny and hard to explain, the real ones are the kind that don’t exist) whereas the other “zombie” are metaphors (but of course, metaphors are also real, and the existence of words is perhaps more real than the imaginary creature). So which is real? We’ll have to wait to see what happens to the word in the future…


From → debts, economics, money, war

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