Japan Tsunami Remembered … the Social Documentary Continues

This past Sunday, March 11th marked the one year anniversary of the Tsunami in Japan. One year ago, we all watched it unfold online, on television, via radio…where ever we could get information. It was a disaster of international reach.

A colleague of mine from my television day told me a story as I was asking for help trying to find some unique video tapes. He told me this video tape was rare because of the Tsunami. The video tape was made in Japan by Sony and stored in a warehouse that was under water after the Tsunami . But the story only begins here…the engineers and staff from Sony had climbed to safety on the top floor only to notice another building off in the distance had school children on the roof, waiting to be rescued.

So those Sony engineers and staff built a boat. There was a huge boat on display downstairs of the Sony building…so they worked to transform that boat into a usable form of rescue. They eventually put it in the water and made their way over to the school to try to rescue the children. This story was passed around by executives during last year’s NAB conference.

Each day we are telling stories. Each day we hear new ones. Each day we read articles like this from Mashable using a timeline to document the events from a past event, specifically the Japan Tsunami.  We are human and we like to share, recount, and re-live a time from “our” past. So how about the technology, the social technology that now surrounds us to document these events.

We still remember January 28, 1986…the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in front of our eyes. I remember watching from my 6th grade classroom as we watched the first school teacher go to space. It was just a few days ago, March 9th to be exact, that Huffington Post reported the finding of a new Super 8 film of an amateur recording of the explosion.

The article talks about how many people stored away old film from their past, and as they begin to go through their belongings…they find artifacts of national importance right in their drawers, closets, and attics.

These artifacts are so very precious, so rare, so valuable that even the Huffington Post finds the need to purchase the rights to this newly uncovered Super 8 film.  Compare this event to the Tsunami where we have thousands of user generated accounts of this day. Tweets, pictures, video, blog posts, Wiki entries…all of which unfold along with the main stream media’s reporting.

We no longer are having to rely on the individual to “just so happen” to find that Super 8 film, we now just do a Google search and the social documentary of our present day events unfolds right infront of us. We are writing the social documentary…and it is more that just recounting the day. It is sharing our thoughts, feelings, and expressions upon every update and upload.

How many of you saved stuff/articles from 9/11? I know I did…I purchased the NewYork Times and USA Today from Sept. 12, 2001. I saved every digital image I could find during those days so I could share them with my children one day. Sarah recorded the whole day of reporting from NBC News on VHS tape. All of this is locked away in safety deposit boxes.

Outlets like Facebook and Twitter bring the social documentary to the forefront. They interweave social memories using media in a time line fashion. No wonder Facebook has moved to the timeline interface, because we want to remember. Hashtags allows us to aggregate topics based on two variables: the particular hashtag and time.

We are creating the social documentary and it is unfolding right in front of us.