Commentary

Take Two: Actually, Some Japanese UGC Is Impressive

Japan-tsunami

I hate having to admit that I'm wrong, so I'm not going to. However, I will concede I was overhasty in generalizing about user-generated content in last week's column, where I said professional video crews did a better job documenting the earthquake and tsunami in Japan than regular folks.  

While I think this judgment was correct at the time, I have subsequently seen some amazing videos which are easily as compelling as professional video (if not more so). Some of the most impressive examples are a handful of videos documenting the incredible destruction visited on Japan's northeast coast from a variety of different perspectives. Basically, these videos -- examples here, here, here, here and here show entire towns being swept away by the unstoppable wall of water. I can't be 100% sure that all of these are user-generated, but the camera work leads me to believe that they are.

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As one astute comment on last week's post pointed out, the reason these videos may have been delayed was -- duh -- the devastation visited by the earthquake and the tsunami, which likely knocked out the Internet (along with the water, power, and roads) in the most-affected areas. By this reasoning, it also makes sense that people who were able to upload their videos faster probably lived in less-affected areas, and therefore probably had less compelling videos to upload in the first place.

That said, there are a couple things the videos linked above all have in common. Like the best professional videos, which were often taken from helicopters, they all have a good physical perspective: in the first four, the person filming the tsunami is on top of a hill or a tall building, which allows them to capture the kind of sweeping, panoramic shots needed to convey an event of this magnitude (not to mention keep themselves out of harm's way). In the last video, by contrast, the person recording gives a remarkable street-level view of the tsunami sweeping away a town; while this is incredibly compelling footage, it appears to involve real risk to the person taking the video, which even professional camera crews might not be willing to incur.

4 comments about "Take Two: Actually, Some Japanese UGC Is Impressive".
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  1. Daniel Soschin from Speaker & Blogger, March 14, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.

    Props for updating the post with the info that the UGC was [probably] delayed due to limited network access. I think most people had other things on their minds, so it's impressive that as much UGC we've seen so far has made it out. Truly remarkable and devastating. The images are amazing, including the gov't satellite images of before and after. We have several faculty members here at American Military University that have been deployed as part of the rescue, recovery and disaster management operations. Our hats go off to all those folks who are helping out and our hearts to all those who lost something or someone.

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, March 14, 2011 at 5:18 p.m.

    Agree with how impressive the UGC is. Your original point, though, remains - which is perhaps modified to "when you need news immediately, it's unusual for it to arrive outside of standard news media."

    Important to note, also, that most of us aren't seeing the UGC virally. Instead, it's distributed by the big news organizations and TV networks (Guardian, LA Times, ABC News, CNN, ...).

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 14, 2011 at 5:34 p.m.

    Somewhere a guy named Malcolm Gladwell is chuckling.

  4. Erik Sass from none, March 29, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.

    hey, at least I admit when I'm wrong!

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