How The Earthquake Can Jump Start Innovation In Japan

Lisa Katayama (TokyoMango)
Keynote Keynote Room - 3rd Level
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The Sendai earthquake was a terrible tragedy for Japan, but I’m optimistic that it will jump start innovation and a collective sense of action in a country that needed a little shaking up. How has living in the most active earthquake zone in the world affected engineering and innovation in Japan? And what seeds of creativity do we see spawning from the aftermath, as solutions or coping mechanisms, using technology?

Photo of Lisa Katayama

Lisa Katayama

TokyoMango

Lisa Katayama is a San Francisco-based journalist who writes about Japanese culture, technology, and entrepreneurship for Wired, Popular Science, Fast Company, and The New York Times Magazine. She is also a producer for PRI’s Studio360 radio show, the author of a book called Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan, and a correspondent for Boing Boing, one of Time Magazine’s five most essential blogs of 2010. She’s spoken about Japanese web culture to the BBC, CNN, ABC, Martha Stewart Radio, and at venues like O’Reilly’s ETech conference and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. Her personal web site, TokyoMango, was a runner up for the Weblog Awards in 2009. When she’s not working, she rock climbs, does triathlons, and plays the ukulele to her two dogs.

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Comments

W.T. Ichiyasu
04/01/2011 9:15pm PDT

Optimism, in the face of overwhelming adversity, is important to nuture and spread. Meaningful optimism has to be actionable, though. In order to find traction, optimism has to send down roots into the morass of ugly realities, where real seeds of change/hope need to be sewn.

I agree with you that Japan will endure and rebuild. It has an opportunity to “rebuild from scratch,” but will it?

The status quo in Japan has been perfectly willing to wallow in ongoing domestic economic malaise. It seems to me that “rebuilding from scratch” will only come about if it happens from the bottom up. Nothing so dramatic will come about from the political status quo.

You didn’t mention it in your talk, but it’s featured on your TokyoMango blog - “The Japan earthquake Journalist Wall of Shame.” While I agree with most of the criticisms of the media coverage examples on the wikispaces jpquake site, I find the concept of a journalist “wall of shame” to be on the light and fluffy side. The first/best way to fight “shoddy journalism”/sensationalism is with relentless waves of unvarnished truth. There is no substitute for that. We can call out idiot journalists all we want and still take not a single step in the direction of the truth - precious little of which has been coming from TEPCO and/or the Japanese government.

Part of what has been forcing the Japanese government to be marginally more forthcoming and truthful has been private citizens taking their own daily radiation readings and publishing that data on the Internet—not the daily webstreaming of NHK on iTunes.

Not everyone who wished Yukio Edano would “go to sleep,” was necessarily referring to bed rest. Edano is a spokesperson/mouth piece and has been a source of as much disinformation as information. He is hardly an “hero.” That title should be reserved for the quake/tsunami relief workers (toiling in the midst of radioactive fallout) and the workers/technicians who are directly battling the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima Dai Ichi (and Dai Ni). The FDI responders have been sleeping on the ground, haven’t been regularly fed (they have to fully decon before they can even think about eating), aren’t properly equipped and some don’t even know the whereabouts of their loved ones. Edano is not participating in any of that heavy lifting.

While it’s true that there’s been no looting or rioting in the aftermath of this triple whammy catastrophy in Japan, there has been and still is a long standing and credible anti-nuke movement in Japan. That movement is practically blacked out by “sensationalist” international media.

What role has Web 2.0 played in shining any light on that long-standing resistance movement that can and should play an important role in any rebuilding of greater Tohoku?

I hope that Japan will evenntually do much better by the people of the Tohoku region than we, in the US, have done by the people of the Gulf Coast (still not recovered from Katrina, let alone BP’s Deep Water Horizon). It’s almost as if the Gulf Coast is an undeclared National Sacrifice Area—because precious little is being done to rebuild “from scratch” a modern and sustainable 21st century infrastructure there.

In the meanwhile, elderly Japanese who are “sheltering” in Tohoku evacuation centers are dying from exposure (extreme cold), malnutrition and stress. And then there are all of the orphaned children, who are likely to survive, no matter how damaged.

None of that is sensationalism. It is the best that the status quo can do.

I hope that you, as a journalist and activist, will find a way to tell the truthful stories that still need to be told.

Peter Nyren
03/31/2011 10:58am PDT

Insightful and creative presentation. Thank you!

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