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Participatory Mapping: New Data, New Cartography by Jean-Christophe Plantin

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5

The State of Information after the Fukushima Disaster

The lack of information about the level and location of nuclear radiation in Japan after 11 March 2011 was due to the fact that none of the stakeholders present – from the public authorities to the citizens – had any reliable, structured data that could provide a clear view on the situation. In this context, maps appeared as an opportunity for citizens to obtain and visualize information on radiation.

The “shared uncertainty”1 about the level and location of the radiation overlapped with the concept of controversy. This concept departs from the “scientistic” description of scientific work, such as the quest for truth, to take into account “symmetrically and impartially the various actors in their production and legitimation of statements” [PES 07]. In that case, the analysis of scientific practices shows how scientists “produce facts” that can stand up to scientific debates over time. In that “comprehensive, neutral and pragmatic” analysis [PES 07], controversies are opportunities to observe how the scientific fact under study is built before being “put into a black box.” These short windows of liability enable observers to see the adjustments as they are being made. In Dominique Pestre’s words, controversies help to “symmetrically map the actors, watch them as they make sense of the world and argue” [PES 07]. They also show the role played by the stakeholders, who are, according to Michel Callon, “bolder than sociologists ...

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