Lift12, Development, Redevelopment: Kevin Anderson, Social Media in Crisis

[fr] Je suis à la conférence Lift12 à Genève ces prochains jours. Voici mes notes de sessions.

Live-blogging from Lift12 conference in Geneva. These are my notes and interpretations of Kevin Anderson‘s session — best effort, but might be imprecise or even wrong!

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LH: How is social media being used in humanitarian crises?

KA: Goes back to the 14th century… but history for a journalist is what happened yesterday ;-) . After 911, forums and boards showed up to help people track survivors. With every new crisis they’re not reinventing the wheel, things are actually evolving.

With Katrina, we saw the “people finder” show up. A data interchange format was developed following that!

LH: Do we have the same thing going on for political crises?

KA: Absolutely.

steph-note: grrr, I’m crap at blogging discussion sessions, sorry :-(

Ushahidi was developped by somebody who wanted to track election violence. Then it’s been used in all sorts of ways, including humanitarian response in Haïti.

Frontline SMS.

LH: Concretely, how are people using social media to organize?

KA: Haïti, within two hours Ushahidi install set up. Also, managed to find an unused shortcode to set up an SMS number really fast. 3 days to get the SMS system up and running.

“Battle of Seattle” kind of turning into Occupy Wall Street.

steph-note: acceleration of communication and connections

Also, translation by the Haïtian diaspora in the US (crowdsourcing = parallel processing using human beings).

LH: How do people in the field get the news that these systems are set up?

KA: In Haïti, radio was still up. So was SMS. Rather than competitive between old and new technologies, complementary.

LH: Where did it not work?

KA: NGOs in Haïti itself were left out of the loop. Couldn’t access the internet, and when they did, had such antiquated equipment they couldn’t read the maps. Silos between organisations.

LH: Arab Spring: what role did social media play in activism?

KA: Facebook usage at the time, Tunisia 17%, Egypt 5.5%, Libya 4%. Those activists were working over a long time (years). It was long leading up to the Arab Spring. A lot of it was telling the story to the rest of the world.

LH: How did Facebook/Twitter change in those countries? Did it?

KA: steph-note — didn’t get the answer

LH: How did the coverage change?

KA: Self-immolation video on YouTube got the news to the rest of the world. Really grabbed Al Jazeera’s attention.

LH: Syria?

KA: Stories of activists throwing CDs across the border to get the videos out of the country.

LH: Financial crisis?

KA: Battle for coverage. Pepper-spray video spawning its own meme. Tumblr account with ordinary citizens telling their stories. Kickstarted to crowdfund.

LH: There were lost revolutions, like Iran. How do you resist these movements?

KA: Egypt: they shut down, so people started setting up mesh networks, using satellite connections. The Chinese can shut down the entire SMS network.

LH: Key conclusions?

KA: 70% of the traffic to Al Jazeera content was from social media (including livestream). Really powerful. Amplification, both ways, between social media and traditional media. Symbiotic rather than competitive. It’s not just social media, it’s the human networks which have formed. The human connections work through the silos.

LH: Do people using social media run the same risks as journalists?

KA: Yes, whether one is an activist or covering what is happening, if you’re opposing your country… you run the same risks as the professional journalists.

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