According to the Chinese state media, there are nearly 600 million cell phone users today in China, resulting in a corps of citizen journalists equipped with the technology to give eyewitness accounts without a moment's notice. Last week's devastating earthquake in China's Sichuan province produced an enormous number of photos and videos uploaded by Chinese on their mobile devices. Users documented the havoc wrought by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, the deadliest the nation has seen in more than 30 years, and within hours, raw footage of trembling buildings and panicked citizens began to appear on YouTube. Many of these videos presented an emotional, firsthand account of what it was actually like to experience the disaster:
Several users uploaded footage from surveillance cameras that kept on rolling throughout the disaster -- like this eerie video from a parking lot in Chengdu, comprised of a single, stationary shot of four parked cars throughout the six minutes before, during, and after the earthquake. People run frantically in and out of the wobbling frame, but the video has no sound to accompany the alarming visual.
People have also been using YouTube in a range of other ways relating to the earthquake: as an outlet for educating people on the science of tectonic plates, a place to pay tribute to those who have died, and a vehicle for raising money and supplies for those whose lives have been damaged or destroyed.
While the situation in Sichuan will undoubtedly get much worse before it gets better, China's reaction has been encouraging -- not only with its effective and unified emergency response to the tragedy, but also the Chinese people's eagerness to humanize the tragedy by broadcasting their experiences and sharing information with each other and the rest of the world.