The crown and citizens

The world is in an acute crisis. All the citizens on this planet are now fighting against coronavirus and no one can foresee when and how the disaster comes to the end. Yet, a large number of civic tech communities have collected data on their own and launched new websites and apps to map and visualise the coronavirus situation. Japan is no exception, where such communities are trying to collaborate with the central and local governments, but the ministries, whose disclosed data are pdf or xls format in this century, have been lagging behind e-government and are not well responding to the public demand at moment.

That reminds us of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The government at the time was blamed for its slow and unresponsive management of the crisis, and the general public called for more openness and transparency in the security against unknown risks. It also reinvigorated civil society and citizen initiatives, leading citizens not only to challenge the incumbent power but also organize themselves in unprecedented ways.

Under the circumstances, it becomes much less important to say who are they and whether their activities can be called ‘citizen science’. They are not democratizing nor serving science, but simply tackling serious social issues in the face of the global catastrophe. The more (social) scientists are keen to define citizen science, the less citizens are willing to use the term and speak out for it. This is an activity by, with and for citizens, and it does not matter if it is called science as authentic scientists usually understand.


Science by, with and for citizens: rethinking ‘citizen science’ after the 2011 Fukushima disaster

Joke Kenens, Michiel Van Oudheusden, Go Yoshizawa & Ine Van Hoyweghen, Palgrave Communications 6:58.



This article illustrates how citizen-driven radiation monitoring has emerged in post-Fukushima Japan, where citizens generate their own radiation data and measurement devices to provide publics with actionable data about their environments. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in and around Fukushima Prefecture, it highlights the multifaceted character of these bottom-up, citizen-led efforts, contrasting these initiatives with the emergence of ‘citizen participatory’ science policy discourses in Japan. Recognizing the contested nature of citizenship in Japan and in the nuclear arena, the article considers how terms and definitions shape the participation of citizens and other stakeholders (local communities, public authorities, regulators, professional scientists) in science and technology in culturally and historically specific ways. It builds on these observations to open up new spaces of expertise which engage all stakeholders through social-scientific intervention.

We have never been in movies

Hypothetical scenarios of a scientist in a movie are now in vogue on Twitter, many of which entertain us but highlight how stereotypically and erroneously screenwriters portray physicians and scientists in the media (Neill 2019). Although these portrayals appear still major in Hollywood and others, Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) in the US and Centrum Media & Gezondheid in the Netherlands have been trying to provide remedies by entertainment education (EE) interventions. EE is a popular strategy for incorporating health and educational messages into popular entertainment media with the goal of positively influencing awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and/or behaviours (Kaiser Family Foundation 2004). Needless to say, speculative and unrealistic scenarios provide the audience with unhealthy messages and more culturally-sensitive and evidence-based ones are crucial (Houghton et al. 2017; Romer et al. 2009). Researchers and practitioners in health communication become more focus on how to engage with those who are not interested in improving their health because they are already healthy or annoyed by blameless don’t instructions like “Don’t smoke”, “Don’t drink too much”, “Don’t be lazy” and so on. Regulative and directive actions would not work well to motivate them and change their behaviours.

Behaviour change wheel (Michie et al. 2011)

According to a systematic analysis (Michie, van Stralen & West 2011), there are nine behavior change interventions: Restriction, Coercion, Incentivisation, Education, Training, Enablement, Persuasion, Environmental restructuring, and Modelling. Modelling is referred to using our propensity to aspire to or imitate others as a motivational device. Having been underplayed in the context of public engagement and citizen science, modelling can positively and sustainably affect those who are not necessarily interested in science but become more motivated to engage with science-society issues. For instance, extreme biohackers are far from dedicated events for public engagement in science but nevertheless physically engaged with science to be transhumanist icon (Hines 2018). A more modest and popular model could be Salvatore Iaconesi (2013), who open-sourced his brain cancer and mobilised medical advice and art, music, emotional support from more than half a million people via a website called La Cura (The Cure). Visual narratives such as comics, animations, films and theatre plays can also have powerful metaphors and character-driven narratives (e.g. Donkers & Orthia 2016; Farinella 2018), by which audiences keep empathising and even identifying with some characters in their memory.

We can find or produce not only model scientists and innovators. Rather, other professional and citizen characters should be more highlighted in order for the public audience not to enhance their stereotypical images of research and innovation but to revolve in their mind a more complex figure of the governance of science in society. Luckily or unluckily, we researchers in the field of STS (science, technology and society) or STP (science and technology policy) have never been in movies thus far.



Journey from darkness into light

This is a hot story of where the pepper grows. My research journey now starts from PE – not ‘public engagement’, but ‘positive environment’. Environment is critical for people to think and talk of any issues, let alone science. Well, science museums, public labs and lecture halls are absolutely comfortable if you are science-philia, but it could be a nightmare or a poor-taste joke for science-phobia. In between, public surveys in UK, Australia and Japan show that more than one third of the population is potentially interested and engaged in science but they are often worried about certain aspects of science (Ipsos MORI 2011; Kano et al. 2016).

It would be important to engage such the less engaged, if not the unengaged, not simply for the sake of democracy, but rather to reflect their own views in the governance of science and innovation. So, how to mobilize them? In social sciences, mobile methods focus on how people physically and socially make the world through the ways they move and mobilize people, objects, information and ideas (Büscher & Urry 2009). Tourism is worth studying as it may create a new environment for people to think of science in a different way. Whereas the environment may usually be positive for them, the term ‘positive’ is here referred to as a counterpart to the negative context, never in hedonic terms. As going simply to fancy science places can negatively influence the less engaged people, we need to start thinking how to turn their eyes from negative to positive, or accommodate both.

Take dark tourism for example. In the lightest form, it is visiting sites associated with death and suffering (Stone & Sharpley 2006). Pyramiden is an abandoned Russian settlement and coal-mining community on the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway. Visiting such industrial heritage sites makes us ponder over consequences of human activities on this planet and possibly future developments in science and technology.


No wonder that there have been inconclusive debates about the ethics of dart tourism, where tragic historical events are frequently sanitised, distorted, or otherwise misrepresented by an emphasis on spectacle and entertainment (Light 2017). Real stories make people more serious and disciplined, but what about a fictionalized world? Histories of the past are often contentious and histories for the future are often speculative anyway. Literary tourism or film-induced tourism are tourist visits to places and events featured on fictional texts, television, video, or cinema screen. Another form of media-induced tourism has come to gain popularity is anime tourism, which originated in the 1990s in Japan (Okamoto 2015). Places and events depicted in anime, games, manga and other forms of Japanese sub-culture are often based on real ones and regarded as ‘pilgrimage’ sites by the tourists.

As a composite art in which moving pictures, sounds and voices are woven together to form complex and enriched images, anime tourism enables us to more intimately engage with landscape that can offer privileged insights into both place and self. Various interactions and between visitors, local communities, consumers and creators on site, the mass media and the internet create new forms of emotional linkage, continuous communication and reciprocal relationship by changing their original roles, which can be placed at the active end of ‘creative tourism‘ (Richards 2014). The more serious a context behind the work become, the more deeply but positively people engage in the modelled place and event. After watching the animation film In This Corner of The World (2016), not only young pop-culture fans but even old generations have encouragingly visited Kure city in Hiroshima, the largest naval base and arsenal in wartime Japan, in order to image how people went about their daily life during the war and to relish small pleasures for the present.

Kure anime tourist attractions map

Sakura Quest (2017) is a TV animation series set in a depopulated rural town, modelled after Nanto city in Toyama. After the TV series, Nanto city established a sister-city relationship with the fictional city, by which anime tourists have since been working together with residents to revitalize the local community by planting and protecting cherry trees.

Sakuragaike Quest (20 May 2018)

But where is science? Trans-humans like androids, zombies, ghosts, chimeras and monsters are popular and attractable characters in sci-fi works, but promoting any real places for this tourism would again raise the aforementioned ethical issues. Looking for a positive linkage with science and people, the journey continues.