My colleague Jeannine Lemaire from the Core Team of the Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF) recently pointed me to Geofeedia, which may very well be the next generation in crisis mapping technology. So I spent over an hour talking with GeoFeedia’s CEO, Phil Harris, to learn more about the platform and discuss potential applications for humanitarian response. The short version: I’m impressed; not just with the technology itself and potential, but also by Phil’s deep intuition and genuine interest in building a platform that enables others to scale positive social impact.
Situational awareness is absolutely key to emergency response, hence the rise of crisis mapping. The challenge? Processing and geo-referencing Big Data from social media sources to produce live maps has largely been a manual (and arduous) task for many in the humanitarian space. In fact, a number of humanitarian colleagues I’ve spoken to recently have complained that the manual labor required to create (and maintain) live maps is precisely why they aren’t able to launch their own crisis maps. I know this is also true of several international media organizations.
There have been several attempts at creating automated live maps. Take Havaria and Global Incidents Map, for example. But neither of these provide the customi-zability necessary for users to apply the platforms in meaningful ways. Enter Geofeedia. Lets take the recent earthquake and 800 aftershocks in Emilia, Italy. Simply type in the place name (or an exact address) and hit enter. Geofeedia automatically parses Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Instagram for the latest updates in that area and populates the map with this content. The algorithm pulls in data that is already geo-tagged and designated as public.
Big news! I’ll be taking a senior level position at the Qatar Foundation to work on the next generation of humanitarian technology solutions. I’ll be based at the Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI) and be working alongside some truly amazing minds defining the cutting edge of social and scientific computing, computational linguistics, big data, etc. My role at QCRI will be to leverage the expertise within the Institute, the region and beyond to drive technology solutions for humanitarian and social impact globally—think of it as Computing for Good backed by some serious resources. I’ll spend just part of the time in Doha. The rest of my time will be based wherever necessary to have the greatest impact. Needless to say, I’m excited!
My mission over the past five years has been to catalyze strategic linkages between the technology and humanitarian space to promote both innovation and change, so this new adventure feels like the perfect next chapter in this exciting adventure. I’ve had the good fortune and distinct honor of working with some truly inspiring and knowledgeable colleagues who have helped me define and pursue my passions over the years. Needless to say, I’ve learned a great deal from these colleagues; knowledge, contacts and partnerships that I plan to fully leverage at the Qatar Foundation.
It really has been an amazing five years. I joined the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) in 2007 to co-found and co-direct the Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning. The purpose of the program was to assess how new technologies were changing the humanitarian space and how these could be deliberately leveraged to yield more significant impact. As part of my time at HHI, I consulted on a number of cutting-edge projects including the UNDP’s Crisis and Risk Mapping Analysis (CRMA) Program in the Sudan. I also leveraged this iRevolution blog extensively to share my findings and learnings with both the humanitarian and technology communities. In addition, I co-authored the UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Report on “New Technologies in Emergen-cies and Conflicts” (PDF).
Angela Lee: Audience preference and editorial judgment: a study of time-lagged influence in online news
To what extent are audiences influencing editors and journalists, and vice versa? Editorial judgement measured based on placement on paper; audience preference measured by clicks, looking at a 3-hour interval. Audience preference influences editorial decisions three hours later (which suggests editors are watching behavior and responding). However not seeing a reciprocal effect of editorial judgement on audiences.
I’m wondering if the results are influenced by assumptions embedded in the structure of the methodology for the report.
Some popular stories get pushed down on the home page, not sure why? Could be relevance of speed and immediacy – stories might be pushed down to make room for fresh content. Lee calls for input from journalists at the conference.
Alfred Hermida (who’s also been live blogging the conference, and who wrote the book on Participatory Journalism).
Sourcing the Arab Spring: A case study of Andy Carvin’s sources during the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. How is sourcing evolving in the networked social sphere?
“We looked at sourcing, because sourcing matters.” Who we talk to as journalists affects not just what we report, but the meaning we derive from the reporting. When journalists cite non-elite sources or alternative voices, we treat them as deviant, as the others. Powerful and privileged dominate sourcing.
Carvin was doing a very different type of reporting, messaging and retweeting on Twitter. Carvin was like a “must-read newswire” (per Columbia Journalism Review). 162 sources in Tunisia, 185 sources in Egypt. Coded into categories: mainstream media, institutional elites, alternative voices, and other. Alternative voices included people involved in the protests.
“In November 2009, boyd traveled to New York City to deliver what she expected to be a major address at the Web 2.0 Expo, one of the year’s most important gatherings of Internet professionals. Her topic was what she terms “living in the stream,” or how not to drown in the flood of information that comes at us all the time. Teens, she believes, are especially good at this. The most web-savvy of them manage to stay open to all the digital stuff without having to process everything. They take what they can handle and remain untroubled that much may elude their grasp. It’s a kind of cyber-Zen. “The goal is . . . to be peripherally aware of information as it flows by, grabbing it at the right moment, when it is most relevant and valuable, entertaining or insightful,” she said at the Expo. “It is about a sense of alignment, of being aligned with information.” She talked about the high some Twitter users get “feeling as though they are living and breathing with the world around them, peripherally aware and in tune, adding content to the stream and grabbing it when appropriate.””
Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, 9 April 2012
In just three decades between 1990 and 2020, the internet will have grown from linking just a few experts in labs to connecting the entire human species through computers and mobile phones as well as billions of objects into an “Internet of Things,” a seamless web of infinite data. As a result, we have transitioned from the familiar Information Age into the uncertain Hybrid Age, an era in which technology is rapidly becoming ubiquitous, intelligent, and social, radically transforming our societies, markets, and governance.
Intelligent Energy & Infrastructure
Sustainability has become the dominant theme of the early 21st century. To successfully transform societies toward lower consumption and greater productivity requires, first and foremost, increasing our urban intelligence through smart grids that connect offices, homes, and traffic lights into an energy saving and generating eco-system. “Smart cities” are emerging all over the world, from greenfield developments such as Songdo in Korea and Tianjin Eco-City in China to retrofit districts in Stockholm, Hamburg, and Rio de Janeiro.
Intelligent Markets & Consumers
Innovation is once again a buzzword among leading corporations, yet many have failed to realize that the future lies not just in innovating products but, more importantly, in innovating experiences. Based on growing online interaction, consumers now expect a real-time, personalized, and social experience as part of the every product offered. Augmented reality, collaborative consumption, game-ification, and sensors embedded in apparel are all examples of how products are being tailored to location, personality, and preferences, while also allowing consumers to share feedback through social networks.
Corporate management faces dramatic challenges today: an aging workforce, talent shortages, and rising competition from emerging markets. The only way to maximize the skills and ambitions of employees is to enable systems of collaboration called “virtual teams” irrespective of division or geography. The new “soft architecture” of the workplace includes Telepresence monitors, social robots, and software platforms which allow for virtual networked cooperation among globally mobile employees and contractors.
In an age of information overload, we now need interactive machines to help us analyze and extract maximum value from all the data we collect about ourselves. From the smart home to the smart car, we are moving beyond a one-way relationship with technology towards interacting with machines using natural gestures and voices, and even trusting them with personal information. The most significant impact of such machines will be felt in healthcare, where data collected from wearable devices will monitor everything from our blood pressure to our moods. In order to partake of the intelligent revolution, each of us must consciously fashion our daily lives and personal living spaces to accommodate and take advantage of new data streams and applications rapidly coming to market.
Social networks have unleashed citizen revolutions from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Rather than succumb to waves of unforeseen pressure, clever mayors from New York and Paris to Dubai and Singapore are deploying elaborate digital strategies to streamline government services and create citizen engagement platforms. An entirely new kind of governance is emerging: through partnership with private sector entrepreneurs, software programmers, and bottom-up social movements, government increasingly operates through interactive dashboards that identify policy and investment needs and respond efficiently.
Ayesha Khanna is Managing Partner of Hybrid Realities, a consulting firm specializing in scenario analysis, technology trends, future cities, and geostrategy. She is also Founder and Principal of the Hybrid Reality Institute, which explores human/technology co-evolution and its implications for society, business and politics.
Phi Beta Iota: Elegant and worthwhile but missing the larger point, that all of these applications of technology are still controlled by the status quo ante powers, doing the wrong things righter, not the right thing. Absent an autonomous Internet and Open Everything, the Internet will be degraded the way Occupy was so quickly degraded.
I recently had the distinct honor of being on the opening plenary of the 2012 Skoll World Forum in Oxford. The panel, “Innovation in Times of Flux: Opportunities on the Heels of Crisis” was moderated by Judith Rodin, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation. I’ve spent the past six years creating linkages between the humanitarian space and technology community, so the conversations we began during the panel prompted me to think more deeply about innovation in the humanitarian space. Clearly, humanitarian crises have catalyzed a number of important innovations in recent years. At the same time, however, these crises extend the cracks that ultimately reveal the inadequacies of existing humanita-rian organizations, particularly those resistant to change; and “any organization that is not changing is a battle-field monument” (While 1992).
These cracks, or gaps, are increasingly filled by disaster-affected communities themselves thanks in part to the rapid commercialization of communication technology. Question is: will the multi-billion dollar humanitarian industry change rapidly enough to avoid being left in the dustbin of history?
Crises often reveal that “existing routines are inadequate or even counter-productive [since] response will necessarily operate beyond the boundary of planned and resourced capabilities” (Leonard and Howitt 2007). More formally, “the ‘symmetry-breaking’ effects of disasters undermine linearly designed and centralized administrative activities” (Corbacioglu 2006). This may explain why “increasing attention is now paid to the capacity of disaster-affected communities to ‘bounce back’ or to recover with little or no external assistance following a disaster” (Manyena 2006).
“It is not just an issue for life-saving medical devices that can kill as well as save: it is about our increasing reliance on embedded software in everyday life, in developed countries at least.
Clearly, we can’t. If the code is not available, then it necessarily limits the number of people who have looked at it. And as Linus’ Law reminds us, given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow. That doesn’t mean opening up the code guarantees that all bugs will be found, but it certainly increases the probability. The corollary is that keeping it closed decreases the chance of someone finding such bugs.
But there’s a problem here. As we move from the realm of “pure” software – that is, programs running on generalised computers producing essentially digital output (even if that is converted into analogue formats like sounds, images or printouts) – to that of “applied” software, there is a new element: the device itself.
For example, in the case of the pacemakers, having the software that drives the computational side of things is only part of the story: just as important is knowing what the software does in the real world, and that depends critically on the design of the hardware. Knowing that a particular sub-routine controls a particular aspect of the pacemaker tells us little unless we also know how the sub-routine’s output is implemented in the device.
What that means is that not only do we need the source code for the programs that run the devices, we also need details about the hardware – its design, its mechanical properties etc. That takes us into the area of open hardware, and here things start to get tricky.
Phi Beta Iota: Governments have all failed to be responsible about understanding complexity and understanding the role of integrity as a foundation for sustainable properity. Proprietary does not scale. Closed kills. It’s time now for open everything and no compromises with respect to intelligence and integrity.
Creative Commons license applies — no financial exploitation without permission. Robert Steele owns three of the four world-brain urls (net, org, com) and is looking for a university with the gravitas to understand why this concept needs to be implemented in full, soonest.
Somalia has been steadily slipping from global media attention over the past few months. The large scale crisis is no longer making headline news, which means that advocacy and lobbying groups are finding it increasingly difficult to place pressure on policymakers and humanitarian organizations to scale their intervention in the Horn of Africa. I recently discussed this issue with Al-jazeera’s Social Media Team whilst in Doha and pitched a project to them which has just gone live this hour.
The joint project combines the efforts of multiple partners including Al-Jazeera, Ushahidi, Souktel, Crowdflower, the African Diaspora Institute and the wider Somali Diaspora. The basis of my pitch to Al-jazeera was to let ordinary Somalis speak for themselves by using SMS to crowdsource their opinions on the unfolding crisis.
. . . . . . .
I am often reminded of what my friend Anand Giridharadasof the New York Times wrote last year vis-a-vis Ushahidi. To paraphrase:
They used to say that history is written by the victors. But today, before the victors win, if they win, there is a chance to scream out with a text message, a text message that will not vanish, a text message that will remain immortalized on a map for the world to bear witness. What would we know about what passed between Turks and Armenians, Germans and Jews, Hutus and Tutsis, if every one of them had had the chance, before the darkness, to declare for all time:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2011
STATEMENT OF DEPUTY MAYOR CAS HOLLOWAY ON BROOKFIELD PROPERTIES POSTPONING THEIR CLEANING OF ZUCCOTTI PARK
³Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park Brookfield Properties that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation. Our position has been consistent throughout: the City¹s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation.
Phi Beta Iota: NYPD and Bloomberg both understand that flash mobs can hand them their ass.
First I met with Alexa O’Brien, one of the brilliant minds behind U.S. Day of Rage and its focus on Electoral Reform and non-violence as an absolute. [My memo that Fox news still has not read is here.]
Although they are also focused on a Constitutional Convention, as Lawrence Lessig has been, I reiterated the point that Electoral Reform is the one thing that can be demanded today (no later than 6 November, one year prior to Election Day), with severe consequences for every elected person if Congress fails to pass Electoral Reform by President’s Day (February 2012), to include recall or impeachment, and camp-outs at their offices and in public spaces near their homes through to Election Day 2012.
Below are the working papers that have been posted for discussion in New York City, first with the Day of Rage team (it is neither a Day nor a Rage and it is all about electoral reform), then with the General Assembly at OccupyWallStreet, beginning with a handful of self-selected facilitators.
I will be driving a 1964 MGB, red in color, license VA MGB 64. If we do the human megaphone, it should be around 1700 (5 pm) Thursday or 1100 Friday.
Along with a lot of other people, I’ve been wondering what’s going on with Occupy Wall Street. Although it obviously shares energy with the Wisconsin occupation and Arab Spring, its mix of persistence and lack of demands makes it a puzzle, dragging it right out of the usual boxes we think with. It gets under the skin like a disturbingly peaceful ongoing Stonewall riot or something…
I’ve been trying to sort it out because Occupy Wall Street’s sibling, the October2011DC occupation, is imminent. Should I go there? Will it be a watershed “trigger event” I shouldn’t miss if I want to weave my ideas, visions, and life energy into its impact on the world?
About a week ago I decided not to go. I’m trying to focus on writing a book on empowered public wisdom. But every day I feel more ironic. I mean, isn’t that what I’m seeing?! How old fashioned is it to focus on a book when exuberant Transformational Aliveness is exploding before my very eyes! Nevertheless, I’m sticking to my decision. At least I think I am.
I’ve read a few brilliant articles about Occupy Wall Street that dig deeper than the usual commentaries from the Left, Right, Center and Alpha Centauri. Two this morning – here and here – stimulated the bloggy response you are currently reading. But I don’t know whether any of these analyses – including my own – are correct. But then again, is “correct” what’s going on here?
My own tentative take is that Occupy Wall Street – and perhaps each of its offsprings and siblings – is a catalytic butterfly. “Catalytic” because a catalyst makes big things possible, easier, and faster without, itself, seeming to do or change much. “Butterfly” because the “butterfly effect” arises in complex, chaotic systems like 21st century global civilization – and any given small flap may (unpredictably, depending on circumstances) generate hurricane-stimulating power. My own suspicion is that important things will happen because Occupy Wall Street is happening. But they probably won’t be anything that Occupy Wall Street is trying to make happen.
Fury over corporate power in the US is spreading from New York across the country. Thousands have joined the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, angered by the economic slump that may lead to a revolution in the country.
Robert David Steele, political analyst and former intelligence officer, told RT the US right now is much more desperate than people realize.
“We have 22 per cent unemployment and on our way to 30 per cent. We are 16 per cent below the poverty line and on our way to 30 per cent. There is no question in my mind that this is going to be a very dark winter in the United States,” he stated. “Unless the government restores its own integrity and starts paying attention to the public interest rather than to the special interests, I believe that we will have a form of revolution, initially non-violent, but with the potential to become violent,” he added.
Despite the fact that “Occupy Wall Street” protesters have raised everything from lack of jobs to global warming, there is a common cause uniting the activists, Steele believes.
“These are not stupid people. They are very smart and they understand that at root this is about corruption in government and corruption on Wall Street,” he explained. “And until you have electoral reform, you cannot restore the integrity of US government. So there is a common cause, but it is voiced in many different ways,” he maintained.
The protest started out peacefully, but now it is the third week and more than 700 people have been arrested on Brooklyn Bridge. And according to Steele, the NYC police have on the one hand been very well-managed and on the other hand have gotten out of control at lower levels.
“My personal hope is that the general non-violent strike will be used to force the issue of electoral reform,” he concluded.
Core Proposed Program for Occupy Wall Street (Across the Nation):
CORRUPTION is the common enemy, both in government and in the private sector.