Hi, please

Speake out- and map it!

I am fascinated by the possibilities of interactive mapping for social activism. The most enthralling example I’ve found is Ushahidi, an Internet platform created by Kenyan bloggers during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008. Ushahidi offered the possibility to report human rights violations and other incidents via test-messaging, email and Twitter to the website, that then were mapped onto Google Earth with a timeline of the events, creating a  global picture of the Kenyan crisis. Since then, the experience of Ushahidi has been replicated in other parts of the world, like South Africa, DR Congo, and most recently in Haiti, where people can report emergencies and missing persons. The software was even applied to track the swine flue or wildlife in Kenya. It is a great combination of citizen journalism, and digital social activism.
First of all, I’d like to understand better the mechanisms of Ushahidi, the way it is linked to other softwares like FrontlineSMS, and explore how it can be used for other causes. Do you know similar projects? I’ve found several examples of activist mapping, like Acces Denied (map of Global Voices that monitors government censorship of the Internet,) or Crime Reports (local crime information and maps,) but none of them is based on user-generated content!
I’ve also got various concerns: How is the information checked? What about the spread of false information? And what about the security/identity of the informer?

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  1. HoniehBarak 00:44, Feb 1st, 10

    This tool is very interesting. I had never heard of it. I would definitely like to learn more about it. The only issue that concerns me is that many of these people may not have internet access so how can we ensure that the information that is being provided will reach the population, and also, like any “blog” how can we validate the information. I can recall during the twitter revolution in Iran, a lot of the information being posted was inaccurate. CNN and many reputable news organizations were using twitter feeds and fb statuses as reference.

    As I mentioned before – this tool “Ushahidi, an Internet platform created by Kenyan bloggers during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008.” can be IMMENSELY useful for those people who can’t rely on their local newspapers, or TV News, because they are corrupt or full of lies for political or other reasons, etc.. So I definitely think this is a really COOL topic to start your travels with. (and possibly because I want to learn about it haha)

  2. ElzbthMllr 11:08, Feb 1st, 10

    A colleague of mine named Allison Fine just posted a nice summary of the importance of this tool (which I’ve never heard of until reading your post) that discusses how she sees it “represent all of the pieces of the digital convergence to crowdsource crisis information”. I thought you might find it interesting.

    Here’s the link: http://afine2.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/ushahidi-puts-all-the-pieces-together/.

  3. Ryanverost@yahoo.com 16:39, Feb 1st, 10

    You are too good LOL :) Another interesting topic indeed. I think this will be a great media landscape to research but I have some concerns about it that maybe you can look into more about.

    The first concern about Ushahidi is the accessibility of reporting to the site. Another concern is what is the result of the social activism other than reporting it. What results are social progress or justice can be achieved from it? I was thinking OK, so they report these things… but WHO or WHAT organization investigates these cases and what action is taken to ensure that these injustices won’t reoccur?

    Those questions at the end are great starting points as well. Good luck on your journey and may the force of new media be with you.

  4. mushon 09:13, Feb 2nd, 10

    Great choice.
    Some references on Ushahidi (a great project indeed):

    * Patrick Meier of Ushahidi posts interesting insights on crisis mapping issues on his blog and Twitter feed, especially these days when he’s well invested in Haiti crisis mapping.

    * The work of geeks at CrisisCamps in NY & around the world: http://crisiscommons.org/ some of them working on/with Ushahidi software

    * Possibly relevant – http://openstreetmap.org/ is a user generated map of the world, also used widely in places where the need to map is not informed by business priorities (like in Haiti).

    * I think it is important to emphasize the very high penetration of mobile tech in the developing world. These reports are done with text messaging, not through Smart Phone / webapps. Mobile is the digital revolution in Africa, and to a certain degree in Haiti as well.

  5. Harris 14:37, Feb 2nd, 10

    The questions/concerns you list at the end of your post, it looks like they keep coming back wherever we go.

    I had just arrived in New York when I met some people from the Green Maps [http://www.greenmap.org] initiative. You might want to take a look at that.