Patrick Meier: Crowdsourced Crisis Map of UAV/Aerial Videos for Disaster Response

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Crowdsourced Crisis Map of UAV/Aerial Videos for Disaster Response

The first version of the Humanitarian UAV Network’s Crisis Map of UAV/aerial videos is now live on the Network’s website. The crowdsourced map features dozens of aerial videos of recent disasters. Like social media, this new medium—user-generated (aerial) content—can be used by humanitarian organizations to complement their damage assessments and thus improve situational awareness.

The purpose of this Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) map is not only to provide humanitarian organizations and disaster-affected communities with an online repository of aerial information on disaster damage to augment their situational awareness; this crisis map also serves to raise awareness on how to safely & responsibly use small UAVs for rapid damage assessments. This explains why users who upload new content to the map must confirm that they have read the UAViator‘s Code of Conduct. They also have to confirm that the videos conform to the Network’s mission and that they do not violate privacy or copyrights. In sum, the map seeks to crowdsource both aerial footage and critical thinking for the responsible use of UAVs in humanitarian settings.

Read full post with videos.

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Jul 18

Patrick Meier: Using UAVs for Community Mapping & Disaster Risk Reduction — The Haiti Example

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Using UAVs for Community Mapping and Disaster Risk Reduction in Haiti

“What if, to solve our problems, we simply need to rise above them?” CartONG and France’s OpenStreetMap (OSM) community recently teamed up to support OSM Haiti’s disaster risk reduction efforts by deploying a small UAV, “which proved very useful for participatory mapping.” The video documentary below provides an excellent summary of this humanitarian UAV mission which took place just a few weeks ago.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

As I noted in this earlier blog post on grassroots UAVs, the use of UAVs at the community level can be viewed as an extension of community and participatory mapping, which is why community engagement is pivotal for humanitarian UAV deployments. In many ways, a micro-UAV can actually bring a community together; can catalyze conversations & participation, which should be taken as more than simply a positive externality. Public Participatory GIS Projects (PPGIS) have long been used as a means to catalyze community conversations and even conflict resolution and mediation. So one should not overlook the positive uses of UAVs as a way to convene a community. Indeed, as CartONG and partners rightly note in the above video documentary, “The UAV is the uniting tool that brings the community together.”

Read full post with additional graphics & photos.

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Jul 10

John Maguire: German Villagers Build Own Broadband Network, Connect Directly to Dark Fiber

John Maguire

John Maguire

German villagers build own broadband network

Hacked off with slow download speeds the locals of Löwenstedt clubbed together the cash to build their own super-fast internet service to the delight of the village’s tiny population.

Too isolated and with few inhabitants, the tiny village of Löwenstedt in northern Germany is simply too small to show up on the radars of national Internet operators.

So the villagers took their digital fate into their own hands and built a broadband Internet network of their own.

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Jun 10

Patrick Meier: Zoomanitarians – Using Citizen Science and Next Generation Satellites to Accelerate Disaster Damage Assessments

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Zoomanitarians: Using Citizen Science and Next Generation Satellites to Accelerate Disaster Damage Assessments

Zoomanitarians has been in the works for well over a year, so we’re excited to be going fully public for the first time. Zoomanitarians is a joint initiative between Zooniverse (Brook Simmons), Planet Labs (Alex Bakir) and myself at QCRI. The purpose of Zoomanitarians is to accelerate disaster damage assessments by leveraging Planet Labs’ unique constellation of 28 satellites and Zooniverse’s highly scalable microtasking platform. As I noted in this earlier post, digital volunteers from Zooniverse tagged well over 2 million satellite images (of Mars, below) in just 48 hours. So why not invite Zooniverse volunteers to tag millions of images taken by Planet Labs after major disasters to help humanitarians accelerate their damage assessments?

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Jun 4

Jean Lievens: The Social Labs Revolution

Jean Lievens

Jean Lievens

The Social Labs Revolution: A New Approach to Solving our Most Complex Challenges

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of the book, “What Are Social Laboratories?”

Zaid Hassan

Stanford Social Innovation Review, 19 May 2014

The Social Labs Revolution reports and builds on a decade of practical experiments in addressing social challenges that are complex in nature. These range from the sustainability of global food systems and child malnutrition to state collapse and climate change. Zaid Hassan, a co-founder of Reos Partners, makes the case that taking a planning-based approach risks almost certain failure. Instead he expounds on an experimental, prototyping based approach, social labs, that have proven more effective in addressing complex challenges.

The following is an excerpt from the book.

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May 20

Michel Bauwens: Transitioning to a Commons-Based Society

Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens

Transitioning to a Commons-Based Society

Background on the FLOK Project

Michel Bauwens:

The National Plan of Ecuador recognizes and stresses that the global transformation towards knowledge-based societies and economies requires a new form for the creation and distribution of value in society. The National Plan’s central concept is the achievement of ‘Buen Vivir’ (Sumak Kawsay) or ‘good living’; but good living is impossible without the availability of ‘good knowledge’, i.e. ‘Buen Conocer’ (‘Sumak Yachay’). The third national plan for 2013-2017 explicitly calls for a open-commons based knowledge society[1].

President Correa himself exhorted young people to achieve and fight for this open knowledge society[2].

The FLOK Society is a joint research effort by the Coordinating Ministry of Knowledge and Human Talent, the SENESCYT (Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) and the IAEN (Instituto de Altos Estudios del Estado) to develop transition and policy proposals to achieve such an open commons-based knowledge society.

FLOK refers to:

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May 19

Patrick Meier: Latest Findings on Disaster Resilience – From Burma to California via the Rockefeller Foundation

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Latest Findings on Disaster Resilience: From Burma to California via the Rockefeller Foundation

I’ve long been interested in disaster resilience particularly when considered through the lens of self-organization. To be sure, the capacity to self-organize is an important feature of resilient societies. So what facilitates self-organization? There are several factors, of course, but the two I’m most interested in are social capital and communication technologies. My interest in disaster resilience also explains why one of our Social Innovation Tracks at QCRI is specifically focused on resilience. So I’m always on the lookout for new research on resilience. The purpose of this blog post is to summarize the latest insights.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

This new report (PDF) on Burma assesses the influence of social capital on disaster resilience. More specifically, the report focuses on the influence of bonding, bridging and linking social capital on disaster resilience in remote rural communities in the Ayerwaddy Region of Myanmar. Bonding capital refers to ties that are shared between individuals with common characteristics characteristics such as religion or ethnicity. Bridging capital relates to ties that connect individuals with those outside their immediate communities. These ties could be the result of shared geographical space, for example. Linking capital refers to vertical links between a community and individuals or groups outside said community. The relationship between a village and the government or a donor and recipients, for example.

As the report notes, “a balance of bonding, bridging and linking capitals is important of social and economic stability as well as resilience. It will also play a large role in a community’s ability to reduce their risk of disaster and cope with external shocks as they play a role in resource management, sustainable livelihoods and coping strategies.” In fact, “social capital can be a substitute for a lack of government intervention in disaster planning, early warning and recovery.” The study also notes that “rural communities tend to have stronger social capital due to their geographical distance from government and decision-making structures necessitating them being more self-sufficient.”

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May 13

Jean Lievens: Stacco Troncoso Shares Helene Finidori on FLOK Society and the Commons

Jean Lievens

Jean Lievens

Helene Finidori on FLOK Society and the Commons

Here’s an excellent summary, written by our good friend Helene Finidori from the Commons Abundance Network, on FLOK Society’s historical significance for the Commons and P2P movements. The article was originally published in STIR magazine and Helene has kindly given us permission to republish it here.


This column was published in STIR’s spring issue and is available to buy here

With the Free Libre Open Knowledge (FLOK) Society project, peer-to-peer commons-based economics have a good chance of being institutionalised in Ecuador, or in other words, of entering at a nation-state level through the front door. This would be a world first.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

Ecuador may not be particularly advanced as far as urban P2P dynamics are concerned, but its indigenous and rural communities have a long history of sharing knowledge. And since the election of a progressive government in 2007, the country is politically ahead in its determination to continue developing an economy based on the creativity of its citizens and on the sustainable leverage of its internal resources.

The focus here is to transition away from cognitive capitalism where value is commonly extracted via technology transfers through intellectual property rights mostly held by large foreign companies, generating dependencies on the global north and increasing the internal social divide. The goal is to shift towards a ‘social knowledge economy’ where knowledge is freely accessible, produced and shared through co-operative and open processes, and where the resulting knowledge commons can be built upon to accelerate innovation and the distribution of wealth.

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May 5

Jean Lievens: Open Source Urbanism & “Right to Infrastructure”

Jean Lievens

Jean Lievens

The right to infrastructure: a prototype for open source urbanism

Alberto Corsín Jiménez

Abstract. This paper develops an analytical framework to place the rise of open source urbanism in context, and develops the concept of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as expressive of new ecologies of urban relations that have come into being. It describes, first, a genealogy for open source technology, focusing in particular on how open source urban hardware projects may challenge urban theory. It moves then to describe in detail various dimensions and implications of an open source infrastructural project in Madrid. In all, the paper analyses three challenges that the development of open source urban infrastructures is posing to the institutions of urban governance and property: the evolving shape and composition of urban ecologies; the technical and design challenges brought about by open source urban projects; and the social organisation of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as a political, active voice in urban governance. In the last instance, the right to infrastructure, I shall argue, signals the rise of the ‘prototype’ as an emerging figure for contemporary sociotechnical designs in and for social theory.
Keywords: open source urbanism, infrastructures, urban ecologies, urban commons, right to the city, prototypes

Corsín Jiménez A, 2014, “The right to infrastructure: a prototype for open source urbanism” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32(2) 342 – 362

PDF (21 Pages): 2014 Open Source Urbanism Right to Infrastructure

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Apr 28

Patrick Meier: Got TweetCred? Use This Tool To Automatically Identify Credible Tweets

Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier

Got TweetCred? Use it To Automatically Identify Credible Tweets

What if there were a way to automatically identify credible tweets during major events like disasters? Sounds rather far-fetched, right? Think again.

The new field of Digital Information Forensics is increasingly making use of Big Data analytics and techniques from artificial intelligence like machine learning to automatically verify social media. This is how my QCRI colleague ChaTo et al. already predicted both credible and non-credible tweets generated after the Chile Earthquake (with an accuracy of 86%). Meanwhile, my colleagues Aditi, et al. from IIIT Delhi also used machine learning to automatically rank the credibility of some 35 million tweets generated during a dozen major international events such as the UK Riots and the Libya Crisis. So we teamed up with Aditi et al. to turn those academic findings into TweetCred, a free app that identifies credible tweets automatically.

We’ve just launched the very first version of TweetCred—key word being first. This means that our new app is still experimental. On the plus side, since TweetCred is powered by machine learning, it will become increasingly accurate over time as more users make use of the app and “teach” it the difference between credible and non-credible tweets. Teaching TweetCred is as simple as a click of the mouse. Take the tweet below, for example.

Read full post with more links.

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Apr 28