Mapping the Recent Conflict

Posted on May 10, 2008. Filed under: independent journalism, international journalism | Tags: , , , , , , |

A detail of the Platial map started to document the recent conflict

(Above: Detail of Ras Beirut, where much of the recent fighting is/was, captured from a Platial map created to document the events of the past few days.)

I just sent this email out to everyone I know in Lebanon. Please move it around:

Dear friends close to Lebanon,

I hope each and every one of you is safe and sound in the midst of the recent fighting in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon.

I am conducting an experiment with mapping this recent conflict with a social web application called Platial maps. On this map, to which I’ve added only a few markers to get started, you can set a marker, create icons (because there’s a pretty limited selection and they weren’t designed to document conflict) upload pictures, and write descriptions of what you saw or experienced or read about while you were inside waiting for it to end.

The map is here:

http://platial.com/map/Beirut-Crisis/112814/

Whether the powers that be come to an agreement today or not, I would like to try to engage in some safe, yet collective action to document the events of the past few days. Anything that you saw is worth remembering, worth documenting. If a friend told you a story that you think should be on this map, please ask him or her to add it. If they don’t have internet access, ask for the information, what happened and where, and add it for them.

Also, I know many of us work with slow internet connections, and I imagine this map is somewhat bandwidth intensive, but if you can get access to a faster connection through an internet cafe, at the office, or at a friends, I think it will be well worth all of our time to contribute. On our 256k Mobi modem, it took about 3-4 minutes to load. You may have to register with Platial to add data. Again, I hope you’ll think it’s worth it. It will not end anytime soon and you can visit as often as you like.

A note: You can also edit icons. Feel free to do so, keeping in mind that what you are editing is another person’s experience. In most cases, I imagine it is better to add a new marker or to add to (but not edit) an existing marker. This project is much more about preserving and honoring our memories than about reporting facts, though the facts that will naturally appear also help construct the fabric. If you are writing and you’re not sure of a fact, you may want to include a (?). Then, someone else may come along and help.

If you have specific questions about this project, please email me directly. I’ll do my best to answer them. But for the moment, I’ll just say that this was inspired by other maps I’ve seen of conflict, by Zeina Maasri’s maps of the 2006 war, and by the possibilities of working together, though dispersed with online media.

Thank you for your participation and for forwarding this email to others who might like to contribute.

Hopefully,

Jessica

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Crowdsourcing Conflict

Posted on February 12, 2008. Filed under: independent journalism, international journalism | Tags: , , , , , |

In what seems like sort of a risky move, Jason Haber, who blogs for open-source journalism pioneer Newassignment.net has promised a site called iConflict by March 2008 (or in some places February 2008 and others just 2008). But just because deadlines to launch new initiatives can be oh-so-hard to meet doesn’t detract from the substance of what he’s trying to achieve. Which serendipitously seems to try to answer the question that ended my last post, is it possible that our watchdogs and truthtellers culd be everywhere at once?

iconflict-logo.jpg

iConflict, says the About page on the companion blog Blogflict, “is dedicated to empowering people to share information, and discuss conflicts and crises, wherever they arise.” Simple enough, but what’s more inspired, and what, inexplicably doesn’t yet exist (though we’re also working on something here) is the site’s mission to aggregate the experiences of not only people who cover conflict but also those who are affected by it, including activists, first responders, relief workers, volunteers, and even citizens living with it, by providing them space to keep blogs and document the so-called situation on the ground with images and video.

Witness.org’s The Hub started something similar last year, providing a space on its website for user-provided video documenting human rights abuses. Global Voices is another go-to platform for international (though not necessarily in conflict) voices via blogs. iConflict appears to want to expand on these models by including originally produced—and then YouTube and iTunes syndicated—newscasts from offices in New York and Washington, DC, as well as interactive, mashed-up content that until now is more often found among the multimedia content of sites like the New York Times and partnering with other networked platforms.

I’ve emailed Haber, one of the site’s creators, to ask about how the site will be funded and moderated as well as what technology will be incorporated in the initial stages. If the creators are able to convert their vision into a workable model, it could help change the way we see the world. In the meantime, they’ve invited anyone interested to join their Facebook group. Pay a visit and maybe you can help them get their lofty goals off the ground.

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