In the past, seismologists have had to rely on information provided by just a few sensors in the vicinity of an earthquake to get information about it, and then afterwards, on anecdotal evidence provided by people that had experienced the quake first hand.
Earthquakes are a collective experience. Citizens have long participated in earthquake science through the reporting, collection, and analysis of individual experiences. The value of citizen-generated status reports was clear after the 1995 Kobe, Japan, earthquake. Today's communications infrastructure has taken citizen engagement to a new level: Earthquake-related Twitter messages can outrun the shaking, Internet traffic detects earthquakes and maps the distribution of shaking in minutes, and accelerometers in consumer electronic devices record seismic waveforms.
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