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<nettime> Quakebook + Social Web
sachiko hayashi on Mon, 28 Mar 2011 11:09:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Quakebook + Social Web

"The 2:46 Quakebook project started with a tweet …. Led by OurManInAbiko, a call went out across Twitter for contributors to create a book to raise funds for Red Cross Japan. The idea was to share the stories and experiences of people actually on the ground during the earthquake, whilst raising funds for the Red Cross.…The contributions have come from a wide variety of sources, and include photographs, personal accounts, drawings; each telling their own tale. Every penny from sales of the book goes directly to Red Cross, Japan."


On 11 March 2011 a major earthquake and an unprecedented tsunami hit Japan, resulting in the worst tragedy in the country's history after WWII.  Jammed by the people who desperately tried to get in touch with their family members, relatives and  friends both within Japan and from abroad, phones (both mobile and landline) didn't work and emails didn't reach anywhere. Even in Tokyo where damage was minimal, it was noticeable right away things were out of normal. It took more than a day for me, now an expat from Tokyo, to get connected with my brother who lives there.  Even then he had to use his landline since his mobile phone, which he uses exclusively otherwise, was still out of function.  It also became clear a couple of emails he had sent to me after the quake never reached me.  Strangely Twitter and Facebook seemed to have been working.  For many these became their way of communicating with the world; not only could they tell each other their whereabouts but also gather important information on the quake's epicentre, the scale of tsunami, further proceedings regarding shelters, etc.  For some, this condition continued for several days.  A friend of mine, also a resident of Tokyo like my brother, told me her phone was not working properly even after 3 days.  She continued to say Twitter and Facebook were the easiest way for her to communicate with others; according to her, the feature on Twitter and Facebook to be able to post one's location was a great additional help for her and her family.  Similar stories are told by others, a couple of which you can read at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/opinion/17azuma.html?_r=1&src=twrhp (first two paragraphs) and at http://10mh.net/2011/03/26/quakebook. 

This is not the first time I experienced the power of social networking sites in recent years.  Last year Sweden, where I currently reside, had its general election.  To many's dismay, the Sweden Democrats, a political party whose agenda is clearly and only racist motivated, entered the Swedish national parliament for the first time.  After this news broke, a 17-year-old Felicia Margineanus made a posting on FB asking people to gather in Sergels torg, Stockholm's central square, to unite against racism in Sweden.  Within a few hours, the word spread, and at 6 pm on the day after the election day, a time set by Felicia's message on FB and less than 21-22 hours after the election result hit the news,  more than 5000 people came to Sergels torg, resulting in one of the largest demonstrations in Sweden in our time.

Though I remain extremely sceptical about the role FB/Twitter played in Tunisia, Egypt, etc.,  I nonetheless decided to share with you these two incidents I myself witnessed.


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