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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mapping Risk: Geospatial Technology as Disaster Media

  • Author(s): Imaoka, Laura Beltz
  • Advisor(s): Krapp, Peter O.
  • et al.
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Mapping Risk situates geospatial technologies in a long line of media composing an evolving (nuclear) imagination of disaster while unpacking the assumptions of a field of knowledge that position them as risk managing technologies par excellence. It considers how spatial technology acts in the “risk society” as a visual cultural media practice. That is, as a technology of risk production and risk management within the context of ordinary everydayness and catastrophic extraordinariness. Threads of inquiry include unpacking the social and economic evaluation and subsequent branding practices of geospatial technology by practitioners and commercial suppliers to show how these tools are positioned as systematic means to see and manage the world. It then follows these assumptions into spheres of media practice. First, it examines the applications of geospatial technologies by news media outlets and social media networks during past large-scale disasters and ongoing cases of risk. The local and globally produced and circulated geodata, visuals, and social and mass media narratives of radiation risk emanating from the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Station disaster provide the main case study. Lastly, it considers the viability of the geographic web for disaster capitalistic ventures by examining spatial media in the sphere of digital humanitarian and for-profit practice. It looks at Japan’s tourism industry’s collaborations with Google Corporation following the triple disaster, reading the location-based “content” deployed with the purpose to return international travelers to the nation and instill national pride in Japanese citizens dealing with the disaster's effects.

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This item is under embargo until August 22, 2022.