What is needed for us
not to forget March 11, 2011?

Memories of the earthquake, even very shocking ones,
will fade out slowly as we return to daily lives.
311 Memories, or a chronology with serene motion,
will help you recollect the memories of the earthquake.


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Browse the transition of news keywords since March 11th >

2011 Great East Japan Earthquake news analysis using natural language processing reveals the flow of time since March 11th, which is visualized here as a "chronology with serene motion." A passive interface allows you to rely on the system's automatic navigation through characters flowing like a scroll of sutra. And you will happen to encounter unexpected keywords that trigger your memories after the event ...

311 Memories Demonstration Video from Asanobu KITAMOTO on Vimeo.


This chronology, or a timeline, focuses on mass media news articles related to Great East Japan Earthquake, automatically and algorithmically selects 10 important keywords every day with article titles containing those keywords. Information on this timeline originally comes from Analysis of News Articles on Great East Japan Earthquake, but this website has a problem in reviving memories of the earthquake, because it requires active user involvement such as searching information by keywords, which is not an immersive environment to focus on memories themselves and look back the flow of time. On the other hand, "311 memories" allows users to rely on the system by just watching the screen in the same way as television so that users can concentrate on looking back the flow of time.

The website automatically starts scrolling, and the row of characters like scriptures will flow on the screen. Some time later, the system automatically and randomly picks up keywords and expands the title of articles containing the keyword. Serendipitous encounter with the keyword will trigger the memories of various events that occurred after March 11, 2011. Users can re-examine the huge impact of the earthquake that caused fundamental changes in the society, and re-think about the recovery from the earthquake and preparedness for the next disaster.

For your information, "311 Memories" is the second work among the "memories" series. The first work was released in 2009 as Isewan Typhoon Memories 2009, which focused on the memories of Isewan Typhoon. This work is based on a slightly different setting in comparison to the current work, but these two works share the same concept of reconstructing the past crisis using real-world data, and raising attention to the memories of disasters through the visualization of the flow of time. In the same way as "Isewan Typhoon Memories 2009," we would like to extend "311 Memories" into an exhibition showing visual data within a large space, and further explore the concept of the work in the context of media art research.


Jury Recommended Works, 16th Japan Media Arts Festival, (The 16th Japan Media Arts Festival) - (2012-12-13)

Media Coverage

ひと:北本朝展さん 「311メモリーズ」ネット上に公開 - 毎日新聞 (2013-01-11)

Japanese researcher makes unique website keeping 2011 disaster memories alive - The Japan Daily Press (2013-01-11)

つながる時間を見える形に 北本朝展さん - MAINICHI RT, No. 208, Vol. 3, 12-13ページ (2013-01-30)

震災の記憶を 今も刻み続けて - NHK NEWS WEB 震災特集 (2013-03-07)


"311 Memories" is a website to keep and recollect the memory of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Due to the massive scale of the disaster, as many as 300,000 online news articles have been distributed, and nation-wide discussion was raised, but that special moment is fading out, and we need to tackle the problem of oblivion even in Japan. Our goal is to design and operate a website so that people can look back the past to recollect their feeling at that time. We assume that "chronology" is the best representation to achieve this goal.

A team of three professionals with different expertise, namely a computer scientist, a design engineer, and a musician, worked together as a transdisciplinary project. We produced a chronology that looks like a stone monument, or a scroll of sutra, in which many characters are flowing on the timeline like a prayer. A word on the timeline is one of relevant keywords of each day, and the change of keywords on the timeline reminds us of various events happened since the earthquake. The hybrid of different approaches led to a website that offers a new form of immersive audio visual experience.

The basic mode of the website is the passive mode, in which a user is just requested to see the screen without interactivity. A system randomly picks up a word and automatically scrolls the timeline to navigate through the whole chronology. This is effective in two ways. First, a random selection of words results in a serendipitous encounter with unexpected words to expand the range of interests. Second, the passive mode reduces information overload by removing the necessity of active information seeking, and allows people focus more on the text to think over how an event has impacted on them.

Music is also an indispensable component to feel the flow of time since the disaster. Color, style, and format of the interface is designed under the concept of "silence" to respect people affected by the disaster.