Thursday, November 22, 2012

Superstorm USA: Caught on Camera

The BBC touts Superstorm USA: Caught on Camera  as
The first great natural disaster documented and shared on the social network

Hang on a second.. This is barely a year and a half after the Great Tohoku Earthquake, which if I recall correctly the BBC (and others) hailed as the most recorded natural disaster in history..

I guess in another couple of years we'll be saying the same thing when some other prominent country is devastated by natural disaster..

I guess you could argue that most of the footage we saw of the Tohoku Earthquake was CCTV and other video footage, but to say that Earthquake wasn't well documented in the social networks in Japan is also totally false. In fact, take a look for yourself! I wrote a blog article commenting about that documentation here, here and here.

I guess all the above quote really proves is the West-centric viewpoint of the media, which is hardly surprising, and I suppose forgivable overall.

What I would say, watching the program is how out of proportion everything is. The superstorm was a great survival victory for the US. In its summary, Wikipedia states:

In Jamaica, winds left 70% of residents without electricity, blew roofs off buildings, killed one, and caused about $55.23 million (2012 USD) in damage. In Haiti, Sandy's outer bands brought flooding that killed at least 54, caused food shortages, and left about 200,000 homeless. In the Dominican Republic, two died. In Puerto Rico, one man was swept away by a swollen river. In Cuba, there was extensive coastal flooding and wind damage inland, destroying some 15,000 homes, killing 11, and causing $2 billion (2012 USD) in damage. In The Bahamas, two died amid an estimated $300 million (2012 USD) in damage.

Of the US it states just:
 In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its storm surge hit New York City on October 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city.
Its hard to sympathize with a band of Americans screaming about their car getting crushed by a tree (from the relative safety of their house) when I'm concurrently relating that with the media images of Japan's disaster.

That's not to say I shouldn't sympathize. I've the pleasure of sailing through life without even a broken bone, my closest encounter with disaster is having my foot run over. Rather gently at that...

But nor would I say the program was actually particularly bad, the events within are certainly newsworthy. Just somewhat blown out of proportion. We live in a modern society with modern comforts and next-to-no-reason to complain. What you don't get much sense of in the documentary is the ability of developed society to overcome the situation. Simply (and to get back to where we began so I can shut my big mouth), the program just doesn't do what it claims it set out to. If they wanted to show how a natural disaster was captured in modern social networks they were looking in the wrong place. Probably we're not even talking about the Japanese earthquake anymore.. Surely the trend started some time before even that? Social networks and viral videos were around when I was still at school... I just can't remember any disasters from back then. And neither can anyone else, because we just don't care.

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