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.
Yes, I’m back, with tons of stories to tell and pictures to show. I was there to conduct research mainly about the impact of the 2014 Soccer World Cup and 2016 Olympics and what these events mean for the country, which is in the midst of a major econoic and society shift.
Photo credits: Flavie Halais. Use with permission.
Hi everyone, just a quick message to explain my silence in the past few weeks. I’m currently in Brazil to conduct research about a few issues (Wolrd Cup, Olympics, favela culture, society shift, etc.) Hopefully this will turn into some nice reporting pieces, and some nice material for this blog.
David Alan Harvey, a Magnum photographer, is currently in Rio to shoot the latest chapter of his upcoming book. Harvey charges $1.99 to give access to his blog, where he posts several updates a day containing some of his shots and written observations. Interesting business model…
Filmmaker Gary Hustwit on Urban Development and City Design
This morning I posted a link to this editorial from The Architect’s Newspaper, which presents a positive view of ruin porn (or Detroitism,) a recent tendency to photograph the ruins of Detroit’s and marvel at their sombre beauty (see examples here, here and here). This article got me thinking: why are we fascinated with signs of urban decay? Why has the plight of Detroit become the object of so much attention? The ruins of Detroit symbolize much more than than the end of the industrial age. They remind us that even the greatest cities eventually die, that no matter how grand humanity can be, it cannot escape a tragic fate. Detroit’s photographs are morbidly beautiful, and we can’t stop watching.
But ruin porn is just part of a general tendency to underline how much Detroit has come to suck. Yes, Detroit sucks, and we revel in remembering and detailing how much it sucks as often as we can. Back when I was living in Seattle, the Stranger (one of the city’s alternative weeklies) published a 3000-word feature titled “Things I Remember About Detroit.” Apparently all there was to remember was violence, prostitution, drug deals, dirt and ruins. I read all 3000 words with vicious pleasure. I also viewed countless photo essays about Detroit’s abandoned buildings, and I even started sharing on this blog my own opinion about what Detroit needs in order to survive.
When I stumbled upon this article this morning I decided to make a quick search about what is said about ruin porn online, and it turns out a lot of good stuff has been written, pro and against the trend. But eventually, I found a feature piece from Vice magazine dating two years back, which eventually gave me an entirely different perspective on the issue.
The global financial crisis is one thing, but discontentment about personal banking has been growing for a while. Service fees, late fees, transaction fees, confusing terms of service, and general unhelpfullness of bank employees is something we all experience once in a while. Banks are supposed to help us manage money, but they’re clearly not.
The good news is, some alternatives are coming. We already know Mint, the personal budgeting application, which features useful planning tools and the ability to track expenses. Here comes Simple, an online banking service. Simple registers your expenses, categorizes them, and takes into account your future automatized payments (e.g. rent) as well as saving goals when displaying your balance. That way, you know exactly how much you can spend, and whether you can afford that $4 latte or $20 concert ticket. Its iPhone app also simplifies transactions; you can cash a check, reimburse a friend, split a restaurant bill, etc., without fees.
Simple partners with local and community banks, and offers personlized customer service – you get to talk to someone right away instead of navigating the automated voice system, and even speak with the same representative when you call back next time.
And it looks great (I mean, the app’s font is Gotham!)
Simple is so far only available by invitation, and to U.S. customers. But there’s no doubt the potential is huge. It’s good to know someone’s got our back…
This opinion column from last Sunday’s New York Times details 25 reasons to have faith in the future of the food system in North America, from smart supermarkets to thoughtful books and community initiatives. Exciting!
To each financial crisis its own population exodus.
While tough economical times led millions of Italians, Irish, Greeks and others to emigrate massively to North America in the first half of the 20th century, Europe saw the trend turn around during times of prosperity with the arrival of families coming mainly from Africa and the Middle East. While this latest trend still exist, a new phenomenon should not be ignored – young Europeans are escaping bleak work prospects and living conditions to venture abroad. But this latest migration wave is slightly different from previous ones. This time, college-educated workers are the ones who choose to leave.
In Spain, where the unemployment rate is about 45% for young workers, many of those who do manage to find employment have to make do with a low salary (they’re called “mileuristas” because of their 1000 Euros monthly wage.) Those who decide to move abroad in order to finally get hired look at Europe first: Germany and the UK mainly, where the economy is still relatively healthy. But some go further. Dubaï, Brazil, the U.S. are some of the examples I found during my research. As a result, it is estimated that Spain will lose about 500,000 of its residents over the next decade, and there are already more people who leave the country than who enter it. Although these numbers don’t compare to the immigration waves of the 60′s (1.5 million Spaniards left for greener pastures,) they are not insignificant either.
I just stumbled upon this great film featuring Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, in which he summarizes the motivation and organization behind Occupy Wall Street. It’s not about fighting the 1% he says. There’s no opponent. We’re all in this together. I found the following words particularly touching:
The loss of community, the loss of connection, the loss of intimacy, the loss of meaning. Everybody wants to live of life of meaning.
These words might sound overly theoretical or philosophical to some, but in recent years I’ve become more aware of the tangible effects of the lack of connection we all feel in our lives. When I went to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside during the Olympics, the social workers and community leaders who had to deal first-hand with the effects of addiction had this to say: the treatment of addiction is not all. What matters is the cause, and the cause of addiction can be found directly in the lack of sense of belonging, of community, of connection that is prevalent in western societies. The Downtown Eastside shows the darkest side of this sens of disconnect, but we all experience it at some kind of level. We should pay attention to signs such as widespread addiction issues, instead of treating them as collateral damage. And look for meaning, humanity, and connection in our lives.