The Virginia Tech Shooter's Digital Mark

A multimedia package sent to NBC by the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-hui Cho, contained pictures of the shooter with various weapons, videos of him rambling, and a long written diatribe. The package is being described as unprecedented and a possible template for future killers.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

The so-called multimedia manifesto sent by the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-hui Cho, to NBC News may provide disturbing, troubling insights. But they are very disturbing.

Here's tech contributor Xeni Jardin.

XENI JARDIN: The story of the Virginia Tech massacre is unfolding online in the first-person voices of all involved: the student eyewitnesses, the grieving families, even the deceased by way of their MySpace or Faceboook profiles. Now, the killer has spoken. When Seung-hui Cho decided to deliver an explanation of the mass killings he was about to commit, he used common technology - digital cameras and a computer capable of writing and editing PDF and video files.

He compiled an array of digital and printed material and sent it to NBC News. Even the file name suggests a kind of media soundbite shorthand: end some life, blood of, you know, M al-Qaida.

Blogger Doc Searls(ph) says even if the tools in format are new, the concept of a manifesto is not.

Mr. DOC SEARLS (Blogger): Text(ph) as if he had a typewriter and that's what he used. Terrorists in the Middle East used videotape and send it to Al Jazeera. It's, you know, you use the tools that are available to you.

JARDIN: Cho delivered 1,800 words, 43 photos and dozens of video files in that package, but NBC has so far aired only a fraction. Surls believe they should release all the materials as soon as possible.

Mr. SURLS: The question isn't really about the tools that he used, it's what we can understand from what he did and what he had to say about it before he did it.

JARDIN: But there's a risk in airing the footage again and again on television and in the idea of dumping it all online, according to Loren Coleman, author of "The Copycat Effect."

Mr. LOREN COLEMAN (Author, "The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines"): What we're creating are the blueprints for future school shooters. The bar has been increased. The plan there is if you do a shooting, you get your videos together and your audio and you send it in. And so we're creating situations that are easy to copycat because we're giving away so much information.

Mr. SURLS: The mediated world is coming to an end, and a - an unmediated world is slowly beginning to form. And I don't think we - are in a good position to come up with what the policies for that are yet.

JARDIN: Surls believes that while the copycat effect is one possible result of releasing Cho's material online, information is no longer controlled by gatekeepers like NBC and other news organizations. That's not always a good thing, says Asian pop culture columnist Jeff Yang.

Mr. JEFF YANG (Columnist, Asian Pop): You have things going out in the blogosphere as news, which are, at that, kind of questionable. And it can lead to error. It can lead to situations where individuals are unfairly targeted.

JARDIN: For instance, on the day of the shooting, bloggers were quick to misidentify another Asian-American Virginia Tech student as the killer. There were many images of weapons on his LiveJournal. Since then, theories are flying online about the details of Cho's so-called multimedia manifesto. Yang reminds us that these theories are about actual people.

Mr. YANG: Theories are just that. Before people, kind of, run out and post something on the blog as something that will, you know, generate millions of eyeballs, one needs to think about the potential impact for the people who had very real-life skin in the game, so to speak: the victims, victims' families and investigators.

JARDIN: For NPR News, I'm Xeni Jardin.

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