All posts in thoughts

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hurricane-irene

A Wired City Versus A Hurricane

My grandma was trapped in mandatory evacuation zone with hurricane Irene fast approaching. As an elderly Russian immigrant, she didn’t have much access to good information about the storm. I rushed to the internet to see what I can find so that I can give her the best advice I can.

Flash back to the earthquake in Haiti and I was part of an exciting example of how technology tools can be used in the face of a disaster. The non-profit I work for, Digital Democracy, had two staff in Port-Au-Prince when the earthquake struck. One of our advisors put up a crisismapping platform, Ushahidi, to help them and others crowdsource messages of help and emergency. SMS, Tweets and Facebook posts were placed on a map by concerned students in Boston so that emergency responders could save lives in Haiti. Thankfully our staff made it back safe, though they were shaken up and our equipment was crushed in their collapsed residence.

hate

Social Media to Prevent Hate Media

George Orwell wrote “History is written by the winners” and while this has been the case in many places, it has certainly not held true for Israel. After the war of independence established the state of Israel, it has continued to fight for legitimacy as a state.

Media has been central to framing this discussion. They have rightly outed human rights abuses as they’ve occurred, but often given heavy-handed and biased coverage that not only sours the debate, but encourages the promulgation of hate speech as the discussion norm. Most recently, this has been exemplified by an upcoming film by Benny Brunner, The Great Book Robbery.

wikileaks

Wikinomics of Leaks

The return on investment from open government data is starting to be shown by projects such as apps for democracy. What about the current WikiLeaks cablegate release of American diplomatic cables?

burmaddos

New tactics in Authoritarianism

Dictators are often ruthless, charismatic and extremely intelligent. They also have the resources to be extremely sophisticated. If not showy.

In modern times, it’s hard for dictators to operate in the ways that they used to. Their citizens having mobile phone cameras and an audience of the world, its just not as easy to have an undocumented massacre as it was 10 years ago.

afghanistan

Leaking Peace

Modern warfare is not just violence, but also peacebuilding initiatives. One of the problems with releasing 90,000+ documents, as WikiLeaks did, and not reporting on the contents of those documents, as the media didn’t, is that the story of the war becomes skewed. Meaning that anyone trying to make sense of a war that has raged for nine years continues to be lost in its fog.

Notes on Wikileaks

I recently met Julian Assange. My conversation with him helped to shine a light on for Wikileaks’ internal processes, just as Raffi Khatchadourian’s brilliant piece in the New Yorker and Julian’s TED talk also helped to do.

Volunteerism For Solidarity Or Social Capital

Clay Shirky opens the evening on stage, explaining that Ushahidi is a system that shows a community what it already knows. What’s interesting about the volunteer effort that developed around in response to the recent earthquake in Haiti is that it soon became something entirely different.

Future Now: NYC’s Digital Storybook

What does real-time mapping with NYC school kids look like? On Saturday, Digital Democracy was invited to work with 120 young people from all 5 boroughs as part of the Department of Education’s “Future Now” program. Having gone through the system myself, I jumped at the chance to help them innovate. While technology access is growing, so is censorship, and I worry about the education we’re giving kids when the banned website list resembles the one in Tunisia. Access to engaging curriculum is also key. One of the girls I taught was named “Tunisia” and when I made a crack about her being named after a country, she didn’t know what I was talking about.

Riga_1940_Soviet_Army

Eastern Europe’s New Communist Threats

My grandfather is the picture of a  90 year old soviet man. Injured by shrapnel from a grenade in the great patriotic war, yet he still jogs a few miles every morning. He lived through World War 2, the new economic policy, Stalin, the fall of the wall, and all the rest.

I had the chance to visit Riga, the city he lived in for all those years, along with my mom on her first trip back to Latvia since fleeing to the US as a refugee in the 70s. I would be able to understand my own roots, recounted to me through  the history and stories of family I have never known . Seeing through their eyes, I would also be able to experience the contrast between communist and European Latvia. But to contrast the staunch Reaganite-conservative politics that they share with so many others refugees like them in the US with those from a much different type of conservative in Europe, would be a real treat in seeing where the future might lead.

Chavez’s Twitter Army: 200 deep

Hugo Chavez on Twitter

“Twitter is terrorism,” Chavez loudly proclaimed in one of his famous radio addresses to the nation, as a bold response to Secretary Clinton’s recent Internet Freedom speech. A few weeks later, and he is now a rising star on the very same platform, known as @chavezcandanga, ie Chavez the devil or Chavez the strong-willed/fearless depending on interpretation. Already, he has 324,788 followers. He has even invited his friend Fidel Castro to join.

Why the sudden change of heart?

open