Published on November 9th, 2012 | by EJC1
Big Data Mashup: Egypt
Crowdsourcing, social media and user-generated content were integral elements of organisation, assistance and communication during Egypt’s revolution. While Egyptians successfully brought about political change, many are not satisfied with the country’s new leader and ruling party. Conflict and dissent still regularly flare up across the country and new media technologies continue to play an important role. This article provides an overview of the many ways these new forms of expression were and are still being used in Egypt.
Enabling many to many communication and thereby significantly increasing information dissemination and connectivity, social networks Facebook and Twitter were key organisational tools of the revolution. In a piece for PBS Media Shift, Tanja Aitamurto and Hanna Sistek reported on the use of Facebook pages like We are all Khaled Said and gatherings called TweetNadwas “a series of online and offline meetings” to organise protests and campaigns across Cairo.
…when Facebook, Twitter and YouTube became widely available, Egyptian activists became superorganizers, supermotivators and supernetworkers… – Alix Dunn, quoted in The power of social media on the Egyptian uprising (2011)
Another project that involved Twitter was Alive In Egypt, part of a larger group of projects where people can call a phone number and record a message that will be uploaded on SayNow and tweeted at @Speak2Tweet. A group of volunteers, crowdsourced by Brian Conley of Small World News, then set about cataloging and translating the tweets which were subsequently put up on the website.
At the same time, photo and video sharing sites, particularly Flickr and Youtube, played a dual role of both documenting events such as demonstrations and violence and identifying alleged perpetrators of human rights violations among the authorities. One such site mentioned by Aitamurto and Sistek is Piggipedia, a Flickr page containing over 500 images of police and soliders “involved in torture and suppressing dissent.”
Videos and images were also used to create #18daysinEgypt, a collaborative documentary of the Egyptian revolution made on GroupStream, created by an Egyptian startup allowing users to collaboratively curate a story from social media, using footage, photos, tweets and Facebook posts from across the country.
Maps and Apps
Mobile app Protest4, available on Android and iPhone, was used by many Egyptian protestors to create and organise protests and communicate with each other. Shortly after its creation in 2011 by Luxembourg-based programmers, the app was used by 2000 people to discuss a campaign “for the release of Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, who was sentenced to 15 days in military prison” wrote The Next Web’s Nancy Messieh.
Egypt Elections was a monitoring project set up in 2012 by the Cairo-based Development and Institutionalization Support Center (DISC) using Ushahidi to map citizen reports on polling stations around the country. The organisation had used the platform two years previously to monitor the heavily rigged 2010 parliamentary elections, called the U-Shahid (You Witness) project, and again in 2011 for the People’s Assembly elections.
Also used to monitor the parliamentary elections in 2011 elections was Bambuser, a Swedish live-streaming tool for mobile phones and computers which enables instant sharing of footage on social media networks. The tool helped to resolve the problem of lost footage, as mobile phones were often confiscated by police.
Outside Egypt, the Yalla Egypt (Go Egypt) crowdmap was created by an individual, who described themselves as “just an ordinary person inspired by the Egyptian people”, to map messages and events showing solidarity with Egyptians during and after the uprising of 25 January, 2011.
Wathiqah was a crowdsourcing site for Egyptians to discuss the proposed new Egyptian constitution. Developed by volunteers at a Stamford University hackathon, the site was initially very popular but became inactive after it was criticised for being too closely linked to then presidential candidate Mohammed El Baradei and by some human rights organisations who claimed could further increase the digital divide in Egyptian society.
Finally, the Tahrir Data Project was launched following the departure of Hosni Mubarak “to gather empirical evidence on how individuals participating in the Egyptian revolution used media.” The project is an ongoing effort by a group calling themselves The Engine Room, “to support a more informed discussion of the role that media (digital and tradition) played (and continue to play) in the Egyptian revolution.”
Photo: Essam Sharaf