The Great Eastern Earthquake that occurred on March 11th dramatically changed the way Japanese government, corporations, media, and citizens in many ways. One of those was the change in situation surrounding media, especially regarding risk communication, after the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima.
Before the accident, there was no effective collaboration between the public announcement of data by the government, analysis of those by researchers, and delivery of the messages by the media. The government, as well as the media, had been under pressure to make announcements that the technology is safe. However, citizens realized that there is no such thing as “risk free”, but that we have to understand the consequences of applying new technologies with objective and relative viewpoints.
That motivated the citizens and researchers to apply social media such as Ustream and Twitter to 1) collect information, 2) to send out data, and 3) to arrange them so others can easily understand what’s happening. Some volunteers started collecting radiation data and plotted them on the map, a number of researchers and medical doctors specialized in nuclear technology made Twitter accounts and started giving data and their perspectives about what’s happening in Fukushima, and many people spread those information. The government also opened up their press conferences to social media such as Ustream so that the citizens can view the whole conferences instead of watching the edited TV news to make sure that they know everything that’s out there.
However, as the need for raw information and analysis about the current situation got satisfied, people wanted to know the long term effect of the radioactive pollution, the best mix of energy sources for building a sustainable economy, and how Japan can reconstruct itself. There were a lot of concerns about the future of Japan in many ways after the earthquake, many of which needed objective, realistic, yet forward looking viewpoints. The need for more effective tool to describe and understand the complicated “future” has increased.
However, Traditional media such as TV and newspaper tend to focus on current situations, and their description tends to be narrative, hence sometimes too emotional and not scientific. And there were not enough alternative resources for data and analysis that people wanted. There was a need to change the situation.