Patrick Meier: Amplifying Somali Voices Here and Now

Patrick Meier

Amplifying Somali Voices Using SMS and a Live Map: #SomaliaSpeaks

[Cross-posted from my post on the Ushahidi blog]

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:

“I was here, and this is what happened to me”?

Read full post with sample text messages and next steps.

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Dec 8

John Robb: Technology, Corruption, & Depressions

John Robb

Technology Shifts and Economic Depression

Joseph Stiglitz (the Nobel prize winning economist) has a great new article: “The Book of Jobs“(behind Vanity Fair’s paywall, sorry).   In it, he makes a convincing case that the first global depression was caused by a process similar to what we are seeing today (I’m very happy somebody in the social sciences is actually attempting to show how technological change was a driver of the first depression, it’s about time).  Here it is in a nutshell:first depression, it’s about time).

  1. Technological change in the form of the internal combustion engine (cars, tractors, trucks) improved transportation and farm productivity.  This led to an agricultural revolution that impacted a huge percentage of the US population.
  2. Farm productivity soared and prices dropped.  This forced many farmers into bankruptcy and led to a steady migration of people from rural to urban locations driving down incomes/demand.
  3. The downward pressure on incomes this caused resulted in a protraced economic depression that only ended when the US and Europe mobilized/nationalized every segment of the economy during WW2 (put everyone to work, trained them, etc.).

At this point in the article Stiglitz stumbles.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 8

Real PR (public reality): Harsh Realities in “Call of Duty”

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Breaks Records, Makes $400 Million in One Day (video game)


Source: TruthDig

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Nov 13

Videos on Election Fraud/Theft

+ Stealing America: Vote by Vote

+ American Blackout: documentary of Greg Palast’s investigation into voter fraud

+ UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections

+ Hacking Democracy: The HBO Special

+ Election theft video archive from

Note: Diebold – “Diebold Election Systems” acquired by “Premiere Election Solutions” then acquired by “ES&S” which was acquired by “Dominion” in 2010 (wikipedia).

Also see:
+ Election Defense Alliance
+ Citizens for Legitimate Gov

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Nov 7

Event: Oct 15-Jan 9, UN, Design with the Other 90% Cities

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES features sixty projects, proposals, and solutions that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies. Divided into six themes—Exchange, Reveal, Adapt, Include, Prosper and Access—to help orient the visitor, the exhibition shines the spotlight on communities, designers, architects, and private, civic, and public organizations that are working together to formulate innovative approaches to urban planning, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, nonformal education, public health, and more.

Comment: Design for the other 90% is a great ‘movement’ but the sponsorship of this event (Citi & Rockefeller Foundation) + UN makes for an unsettling partnership when considering the divide between “the 1%” & “the 99%” and the questions behind the intentions of having their names affiliated with “helping the poor.” I would hope that those within those organizations who can genuinely make a difference are not trumped by those looking to exploit those in poverty.

Also see:
Design for the Other 90% Exhibit + “Micro-Giving” Global Needs Index to Connect Rich to Poor/Fullfill Global-to-Local Requests

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Oct 26

Worth a Look: Between the Bars: Human stories from prison

Between the Bars is a weblog platform for prisoners, through which the 1% of Americans who are in prison can tell their stories. Leave a comment – we’ll pass it on.

In part with the help of MIT Civic Media.

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Oct 11

IBM: proceed with caution (WWII to the present)

 3 examples:

IBM is working with DARPA

IBM Testing Biometric Technology for Retail Advertising

How IBM Tech Helped Jump Start the Holocaust

Comment: I would be cautious+keen of the “smart planet” vision of those running IBM, they have made the brand popular for spreading to all cities. Keep an eye on them (biometric pun, sorry) and be friendly.

Also see:
Carnegie Mellon Univ project PittPatt (facial recognition) spun off into a company post 9/11 funded by DARPA, purchased by Google

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Oct 5

Patrick Meier: Ushahidi Emergent as Democracy in Being

Patrick Meier

Theorizing Ushahidi: An Academic Treatise

[This is an excerpt taken from Chapter 1 of my dissertation]

Activists are not only turning to social media to document unfolding events, they are increasingly mapping these events for the world to bear witness. We’ve seen this happen in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond. My colleague Alexey Sidorenko describes this new phenomenon as a “mapping reflex.” When student activists from Khartoum got in touch earlier this year, they specifically asked for a map, one that would display their pro-democracy protests and the government crackdown. Why? They wanted the world to see that the Arab Spring extended to the Sudan.

The Ushahidi platform is increasingly used to map information generated by crowds in near-real time like the picture depicted above. Why is this important? Because live public maps can help synchronize shared awareness, an important catalyzing factor of social movements, according to Jürgen Habermas. Recall Habermas’s treaties that “those who take on the tools of open expression become a public, and the presence of a synchronized public increasingly constrains un-democratic rulers while expanding the right of that public.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Oct 2

Event: NYC Oct 10-16, MobilityShifts – An International Future of Learning Summit

Digital Fluencies for a Mobile World

What are new pedagogic approaches for learning with mobile platforms? What are the limitations of the “digital literacies” paradigm and its first world/third world assumptions?

How do we promulgate digital fluency as an understanding of the particular features of global information flows in which data, attention, capital, and reputation might move both to and from individual actors and communities?

How can mobile media platforms be used for more than the one-way delivery of  content? What are new pedagogical approaches for real-time mobile learning that  make full use of the potential of mobile phones, iPods, laptops, PDAs, smart  phones, Tablet  PCs, and netbooks in formal and informal contexts? How can global  participants use mobile media to create rich social contexts around important  learning tasks? How can such platforms be leveraged to teach digital rights and the  value of collaboration across cultures?

How can we dispel the myth of the digital native?

How can mobile networks reshape our experiences of space and place through interactive architecture, locative art, geo-caching games, and real-time object recognition? What opportunities for networked teaching and learning might we find in such media-rich, responsive environments?

Workshop schedule

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Sep 26

Robert Steele: Ignored 1994, Ignored 2011–Deja Vu

Robert David STEELE Vivas

One of our contributors passed this to me and asked me to comment in relation to the alarm that Winn Schwartau, Bill Caeli, Jim Anderson, and I sounded in 1994, in writing, to Marty Harris, then head of the National Information Infrastructure (NII).

First, the item.

From the man who discovered Stuxnet, dire warnings one year later

Mark Clayton

Christian Science Monitor, 22 September 2011

Stuxnet, the cyberweapon that attacked and damaged an Iranian nuclear facility, has opened a Pandora’s box of cyberwar, says the man who uncovered it. A Q&A about the potential threats.


CSM: How would you characterize the year since Stuxnet – the response by nations, industry and government?

LANGNER: Last year, after Stuxnet was identified as a weapon, we recommended to every asset owner in America – owners of power plants, chemical plants, refineries and others – to make it a top priority to protect their systems…. That wakeup call lasted only about a week. Thereafter, everybody fell back into coma. The most bizarre thing is that even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Siemens [maker of the industrial control system targeted by Stuxnet] talked about Stuxnet being a wakeup call, but never got into the specifics of what needed to be done.

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Sep 25