Last Friday marked three weeks since a 9.0 earthquake – the fifth largest tremor ever recorded in the world’s history – devastated the Tohoku region, and wrought havoc on much of the nation’s eastern seaboard. Thirty minutes later, a powerful multi-story tsunami robbed cities of their districts, taking countless homes from their owners. Today the casualty count numbers in the thousands, with so many still unaccounted for. And adding to this trifecta of a horrible situation is the continued threat of radiation emitting from the several badly damaged reactors in the Fukushima area just 240 kilometers north of Tokyo.
As I wrote in my last blog post, Japan’s 8.9 Earthquake and the HAM Radio of the 21st Century, social media has played an immeasurable role in ensuring that residents of Japan and millions far beyond this beautiful land are kept constantly informed about the situation here. At times the national and international media have kept us informed and at times have added to the anxiety. Amid the chaos, a special few have gone above and beyond, writing stories that could indeed be worthy of Pulitzer. While the social media realm has contributed to the rumor mill at times, the fact is that Twitter, Facebook, and the blogging spectrum have kept many of us – your truly included – very grounded (@timeouttokyo, @Matt_Alt, @sandrajapandra, @ourmaninabiko, @jakeadelstein, @mqtodd, and @AmbassadorRoos to name but a few – and apologies to the many I’ve missed).
Twitter also introduced me to a new concept this week – the idea that one person could crowd-source many through social media to affect real and lasting change. I’ve heard stories of this kind before, but never have I been witness to it first hand…until now.
It began with a tweet written by @ourmaninabiko on March 18: “I want to compile a book of quake experiences and publish it like within a week and donate all profits to Red Cross We have the technology.” Little more than a week later, the nearly 100-page, 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake was being readied for download via Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s ebook platforms – all of the revenues for which will go directly to the Japan Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. Referred to by its hashmark name on Twitter, #quakebook, the book includes eyewitness submissions, reactions, art, and photographs from professional and citizen journalists across the country and beyond.
“Twitter has been an amazing collaboration tool,” says Our Man in Abiko in a press release on the book’s website. “A few tweets pulled together nearly everything – all the participants, all the expertise – and in just over a week we had created a book including stories from an 80-year-old grandfather in Sendai, a couple in Canada waiting to hear if their relatives were okay, and a Japanese family who left their home, telling their young son they might never be able to return.
After watching #quakebook come to fruition, I’m no longer convinced that Twitter and the like are the HAM radio of the 21st century. Social media – and all its powers – are becoming so interwoven into the fabric of who we are, that one day it’s conceivable that the technology will far surpass the importance of many of our other means of communication. To some that may be a tragic happening, to others, including recipients of the book’s revenues, it might truly be a blessing in a previously unforeseen disguise.
Whatever the case may be, there have been so many tragic stories coming from Japan in recent weeks, and it’s wonderful that amid all of the challenges, there are a few stories that offer real hope. Japan will most certainly recover, and it’ll be stronger than ever when it does. But in the meantime, how heartwarming it is that a few souls (and some big individual and corporate names Yoko Ono, Amazon) have put technology to use, in this way, for the very real betterment of many.
To learn more about 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, or to purchase your copy – purchasing several would be even better – visit the website at http://www.quakebook.org.