The Geigergram: hip in the age of nuclear fallout


Japan is even hip when it comes to nuclear fallout. Gawker reports on the Gamma Watch Squadron, a crew led by a Japanese rapper that takes Instagram photos of elevated Geiger counter readings in public places around Fukushima.

The group’s work taps into the nation’s fears about the after effects of the Fukushima disaster, and the government and the national media’s inattention on the issue of continued nuclear exposure. The series also shows how Geiger counters are becoming a common everyday object for some Japanese in the Fukushima region.

This grassroots type of action around the issue of nuclear fallout isn’t uncommon in Japan in the wake of Fukushima. Last month I wrote about how Xbox hacker and co-founder of the Chumby project, Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, had designed an open-source Geiger counter for Japanese citizens. Huang designed the Geiger counter to be “suitable for everyday civilian use,” affordable, intuitive, easy to use and “sufficiently stylish.”

Instagram’s rapid growth, clean and simple design aesthetic, and emotion-focused medium make it the natural fit for a project like this. As Om put it recently, Instagram was partly bought by Facebook for its “passionate community” and the fact that it is “all soul and emotion.” Documenting life under potential nuclear fallout in the Fukushima area is about as emotional as you can get.


Katie Fehrenbacher

@Matt. The point is they are taking instagram photos of geiger counter readings, including elevated ones, in the Fukushima region to add more grassroots transparency. I’m not pretending to personally know the actual levels and where they cross into worrisome or the previous levels of the areas. This is an example image of their instagram photos.


Not really sure how you figure that is an elevated radiation reading. In order to know if it is elevated, you would need to know what it was before. Generally speaking natural background radiation is 2 to 3 mSv per year but can vary a great deal depending upon your location on earth. This corresponds to about 0.23 to 0.34 uSv/hr.

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