There were two great examples of crowdsourcing initiatives coming from Syria this week. Both are using the Ushaidi platform, which provides open source software to collect and map information.
The first one is Syria Tracker, a platform that monitors human rights abused committed by the government. You can embed the map on your website just like this:
Reports can be submitted on the platform, by email or by tweets.
The second one, Women Under Siege, documents instances of sexualized violence. It’s an initiative from the Women Media Center. The organisation has actually been working on several conflicts such as Darfur-Sudan, Bangladesh and Bosnia, where sexual crimes have been especially prominent. Read this Mashable article to know more.
Women Under Siege advises participants to observe extreme caution when submitting a report and even discourages people based in Syria from accessing the website. There are obvisouly security concerns for those who report abuses.
Documenting crimes in conflict areas is tricky but of considerable importance. One of the specificities of wars like the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which take a heavy toll on civilians, is that such crimes often take place in remote areas where the media and NGOs don’t have access. In Syria, the problem is not so much remoteness as the danger that prevents foreigners from conducting their work on the ground. The lack of documentation makes these crime invisible to the rest of the world, and the work the populations have to achieve in order to deal with trauma impossible.
Coincidentally, I listened last week to the March 16th episode of On the Media, which contained a segment about statistician Patrick Ball, whose job is to determine body counts for international criminal courts and war crimes tribunals. Ball explains the importance of figuring out casualties of wars and war crimes. To listen to the segment, click here.
“The first month of watching TED talks online gave me more knowledge, insight, and inspiration than all four years of the glorified status symbol that is Ivy League education,” writes Brain Pickings editor and TED addict Maria Popova in Good magazine’s Slow Issue. Popova goes on describing how neo-education (free education available on demand through online platforms) achieves what traditional education increasingly fails to do — satisfy our curiosity and provide us with endless knowledge.
I can certainly relate to that. Six years of academia gave me the many skills I need to be a social critic and journalist: observe, analyze, criticize, and produce meaningful content. As for knowledge, I’ve already forgotten most of it, to my greatest dismay. Academia, as far as the Liberal arts are concerned, is shaped on a model that is not valid anymore. Its raison d’être is not to give us knowledge but to train researchers — which few of us actually become.
The TED commandments.
The Internet gives me access to an infinite pool of knowledge. TED talks and podcasts (I learned so much through Radio Lab) are a blessing. Their skillful use of storytelling makes it easier for me to get interested and retain information. This might be why storytelling is making a big comeback (local versions of The Moth are popping up everywhere across the continent.) We’re craving for stories, for information that isn’t delivered in a dull and uninteresting way and elicits a whole range of emotions. We’re also craving for a more human way of transmitting knowledge, and going back to the oral tradition.
Social media has also transformed my learning. Through Twitter, I have access to the best thinkers and researchers in my field. I religiously read and ponder over Jay Rosen’s tweets. I have access to his ideas not only for free (no need to buy a book or pay for NYU tuition fees) but also in real time. The discussion and debate also take place instantly. This open, participative thinking process has the potential to revolutionize the world of academia.
Are we going toward a democratization of knowledge?
This man is dangerous.
The Internet and its social networking websites have sparked off endless debates about privacy. Scientific American brings its voice to the debate with an article written by law professor Daniel J. Solove. Should we just get over it and accept that every detail of our lives be published online, even rumors? Or is privacy a fundamental right that has to be protected?
In this article I learned about JuicyCampus, a website where students from everywhere in the U.S. can rant, spread rumors and divulge details concerning fellow college classmates, all that anonymously. The web 2.0 is going to give us its share of headaches…
The Wall Street Journal published today the sixth edition of All Things Digital, which is usually available as an online magazine/blog at AllThingsD.
It includes an interview with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. He talks about the future of newspapers, the importance of social networking websites (his company News Corp. owns MySpace) and the evolution of the media in general.
Another interview with Robert Kotick of the company Activision addresses the socialization of video games and an article describes how the next generation of networking websites gathers all the services subscribed to by the user, from emailing to Facebook, on a single page.
Read and watch more about this special tab on AllThingsD and D: Notebook.
An article in today’s Globe and Mail describes the corporate transformations through which Wikipedia is going. The online encyclopedia is run by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization. But it has grown to a critical size and is finding itself with an inapropriate structure to support this growth. The foundation has moved its offices from St. Petersburg, Fla., to San Francisco, has hired more staff and is dedicating more energy to fundraising. Its new head of business development, Kul Wadhwa, already has many plans for Wikipedia, like developing the website on mobile platforms such as cellphones.
So wikis really are the next big thing. ReadWriteWeb had a post yesterday on them, which turns out to be a pretty good analysis of the phenomenon, and also gives a fairly complete overview of the different providers and of all the use you can make of a wiki.
Coincidentally, I also found this January 2007 NPR program with Don Tapscott, co-author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.
Linux Insider published an article today on Wikis, written by David Weekly, CEO of PBwiki. Weekly explains that “wikis provide a simple but powerful boost to collaboration and can quickly improve business productivity.” He writes that wikis are appropriate for team efforts and can centralize ideas pitched in by various contributors. They also allow users to access the history of projects and discussions, therefore promoting transparency. This, I think, is an obvious examples of the various applications of collaborative principles.
Digital libraries are getting more and more popular. They’re taking advantage of the Internet to deliver documents in all sorts of forms and shapes to their users. But some of them make it a priority to popularize and democratize their services by making them available free of charge.
LibriVox is giving a new lease of life to audio books by recording books that are in the public domain.
iThèque goes way further. Public libraries can subscribe to their catalog and allow their users to access it anywhere (the libraries pay, not the users.) The catalog includes audio books, e-books, music records, videos and games. Documents that don’t belong to the public domain are “chronodegradable”: users can download the files and use them for 30 days.
As of February, iThèque contributes to the “1% digital solidarity” fund set up by the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) of Geneva. 1 % of its transactions is transfered to the DSF, whose purpose is to address the inequality of access to digital tools between counries.