Japan’s crowd-sourced radiation readings becomes a movement

The Japan Geigermap is in its 5th week and a lot of activity has happened around the map and this crowd-sourcing phenomenon. In fact, a loosely connected community of enthusiasts and (dare I say it) obsessives have sprung up to drive forward the effort of providing crowd-sourced information on radiation levels around Japan.

Here’s a quick update of what I’ve seen in the last few weeks…

  • The Geigermap has seen over 182,000 visits. About 62% of visitors have come from Japan. People also seem to be tweeting about it regularly (mostly in Japanese), though I’m not sure how they’re hearing about it.I’m glad to see that people within Japan are making use of the map to get an overview of the nuclear situation in their country, which is what the map was intended to do. My friend, Shigeru Kobayashi has very kindly provided Japanese translation for the site and I’ve been constantly updating the visuals to make it more useful.
  • Shigeru and I were invited to speak on the BBC Radio4 program, Click On, to shed light on this phenomenon of crowd-sourced radiation readings in Japan. We talked about both sides of the equation, the value of crowd-sourcing and the need to provide better visuals and information to the public.
  • The map was featured in The Atlantic, in an article by Alexis Madrigal, who discussed the power of crowd-sourcing as a way to verify official government data. Be sure to read the comments section to see an added perspective from Usman Haque, founder of Pachube.
  • There have been a number of community efforts to source Geiger counter readings from around Japan and to visualize this in meaningful ways. As a result, Shigeru and his team setup in the Geigermaps.jp portal, a wiki to capture all the knowledge and resources that is being accumulated on this issue. I’ve been a contributor to this effort to help collect maps and articles.
  • Shigeru interviewed me for the Geigermaps.jp blog, where I discussed the power of design & visualisation to help people decipher the radiation information. I also urged geiger projects to standardise on calibration of their geiger counters so that the readings gathered could be comparable to eachother and to government values.
  • As a result of my mapping work, Sean Bonner and Joi Ito asked me to join the Safecast.org team (formerly RDTN) to help in mapping and visualisng their data. Here’s Sean Bonner’s blog entry on what the team is up to in creating home-made geiger projects and doing reconnaissance missions to the evacuation zone. I’m looking forward to contributing to this effort and making information clear to those people on the ground and to those of us concerned from afar.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the community efforts and work, Cheers all! – Haiyan


One Comment

  1. Radioactive nuclear energy in any form can be such a tragic thing. My heart is with those that are suffering. Please, get away from those high reading areas as soon as you can! I find it interesting that the readings near Nagasaki and Hiroshima are not-monitored or minimal on this map compared to the tragedy in NE Japan. It would be fascinating to have a comparison of readings at Chernobyl. Such a tragic thing.

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