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Saigai Joho (Disaster Information and Social Psychology - Lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake)




629 pages, A5 format




September 14, 2021



Published by

University of Tokyo Press

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Saigai Joho

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This book attempts to conduct systematic and comprehensive empirical research from the perspective of social informatics and social psychology on disaster information, focusing on the Great East Japan Earthquake. This research includes recent issues of evacuation, collective behavior, and media studies. In the process of examining "damage estimation" and "evacuation" of disasters, we will extract "four problems"- estimationism, mentalism, hypotheticalism, and egalitarianism - inherent in the Japanese concept of disasters and disaster preparedness.
The first problem with Japan's disaster preparedness is estimationism. This is mainly a problem that arises in administration planning and training. The basis of disaster preparedness in Japan is to assume the risk of disasters and prepare for them. Disaster preparedness and crisis management are considered to be complete if the government can conduct training based on assumptions and respond to those assumptions. Based on the Basic disaster management plan by the government, local governments formulate disaster management plans and specific strategies based on the assumption of disasters and the damages, which is the scheme of disaster preparedness in Japan.
The Second problem is mentalism, which is mainly a matter of structure measures and design. It is the belief that the occurrence and expansion of disaster damage is due to problems in people's behavior and psychology, that we should prepare for disasters by emphasizing the human spirit and mental preparedness, and that we should overcome disasters by changing people's awareness. Especially in the "evacuation" issue, the victims are regarded as having lacked a sense of crisis. In Japan, a mentalism that attributes the problem of evacuation to people's awareness of disaster prevention dominates.
The third problem is hypothecism, which could be considered mainly a problem with journalism. Immediately after a disaster, the media try to point out problems in the disaster response and convey lessons learned. Media reporters formulate hypotheses and interview victims, experts, and others. Reporters formulate hypotheses and interview victims, experts, and others. Sometimes, they seek out and interview people who will comment they desire. As a result, both the government and companies repeatedly formulate countermeasures based on the hypothesis "this is what we should do," mainly based on what has been discussed in the media. Then, even though actual investigations and examination progress and the hypotheses themselves are revealed to have been mistaken, other new topics arise with the next disaster, and a similar cycle is often seen to repeat itself.
The fourth is egalitarianism. “Priority” is usually the key of disaster response and crisis management. Limited resources must be used efficiently to protect as many lives as possible. However, disaster measures have been infused with “egalitarianism,” which seeks to respond to everyone and everything. In this case, measures come to be considered in the order of what people can do, what they want to do, what they can accept, and what fits in the budget.
The purpose of this work is not to "provide solutions" but to "provide directions" for disaster prevention that can save more people by extracting the pitfalls of disaster prevention measures in Japan from the standpoints of social informatics and social psychology. This book summarizes the results of the author's research on natural disasters in the 10 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the research on nuclear disasters will be published separately.

(Written by SEKIYA Naoya, Professor, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies / 2023)

Related Info

The 9th Uchikawa Yoshimi Memorial Prize  (Japan Association for Media, Journalism and Communication Studies  June 26, 2023)
The 21st Docomo Mobile Science Award – Grand Prize  (MCF – Mobile Communication Fund  Oct 21, 2022)
The 31st Okawa Publication Prize  (The Okawa Foundation for Information and Telecommunications  2022)

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