News & Analysis Free Syria - Khalid Albaih

Published on October 9th, 2012 | by EJC


Big Data Mashup: Syria

With entry to Syria severely restricted since the outbreak of conflict in March 2011, many humanitarian and relief projects have focused on ways to remotely document the events of the revolution.

Outside Syria, a number of groups have been tracking and mapping events. A team of US and Syria-based volunteers run Syria Tracker, a crowdsourced map powered by Ushahidi that charts reports of violence made by email, Twitter and direct entry on the site. Meanwhile, Women Under Siege, an initiative of the Women’s Media Centre, has taken a narrower focus with Sexualised Violence in Syria, also powered by Ushahidi, tracking eye witness accounts of sexual violence, made through Twitter, SMS and email. Al Jazeera has taken a different focus, tracking high-level defections from the Assad regime in an interactive multimedia visualisation. In a parallel effort, members of the Standby Volunteer Task Force using micro-tasking platform Tomnod tagged the location of Syrian Army military equipment on digital satellite images for the experimental Syria Satellite Imagery Project, started by influential crisis mapper Patrick Meier, founder of iRevolution.


Inside Syria, anti-government group Syrian Shuhada (Syrian Martyrs) are using Ushahidi for the crowdsourced Syrian Revolution Martyr Timeline Map, marking fatalities among anti-Assad fighters and civilians. Data from the group is also used for the Syria Deaths Map a chronologically focused map of the daily death toll in Syria, created for The Guardian by CartoDB.


Syria Conflict: A Year of Deaths Mapped

The human cost of the conflict most apparent in Faces of the Fallen, a Tumblr page showing crowdsourced photos of those killed in the fighting. It is one of a number of social journalism projects run by Middle East Voices. Syria Street Reports is another, a crowdsourced map of first hand reports from people inside the country. According to it was:

designed to generate accurate reporting from Syria and distribute that information out to the wider world, especially policy makers in the United States and Europe [...] citizens, activists and journalists on the ground in cities across Syria can submit eyewitness reports on their cell phone, share YouTube videos of incidents to help paint an accurate picture of what is really happening.

Middle East Voices, an initiative of Voice of America, is also encouraging Syrians to become citizen journalists by submitting media files and reports on what is taking place around them. These stories are curated at Syria Witness, another Tumblr project aimed at both empowering Syrians “to communicate with each other and tell the rest of the world about they are personally impacted by their country’s deepening political and economic crisis” and acting as a news outlet for the rest of the world.

Talking to Voices of America last year, Ethan Zuckerman, Director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media said

What’s interesting now is to see people use [crowdmaps] as more of a journalism tool, as a way of documenting what’s going on as far as protests … to provide a history of events.



Photo: Khalid Albaih

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