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Published on September 27th, 2012 | by EJC


Full Coverage: Maps, The Power Of The Crowd, And Big Data Verification

On 17 September the European Journalism Centre (EJC) attended the PICNIC Festival 2012 at the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam where they hosted a four-hour session entitled “Maps, the Power of the Crowd, and Big Data Verification”, which focused on how crowdsourced information can play a crucial role in unexpected circumstances like political uprisings and natural disasters. One of the main questions asked was: how can the data best be verified and what is the role of the media?

The EJC session consisted of four presentation and panel discussions that focused on different aspects within the topics of maps, crowdsourcing, and data verification. The first session entitled “The Changing Society and Media Ownership” featured  EJC Director Wilfried Ruetten as moderator, and Director, LSE Polis, Charlie Beckett and Editorial Director, Storyful, David Clinch as panellists. In this section Charlie Beckett looked at the social and political changes that traditional news outlets have undergone due to the influence of new technologies and social media. Beckett argues that the combination of new technologies, public participation and traditional journalist skills create better journalism. David Clinch also underscored that future journalism requires a combination of traditional journalist skills in addition to social media skills. The panel discussed the fact that journalism in the future will become less product oriented, but will be more of a process and a collaboration.

The second panel discussion featured Media Innovation Advisor, Internews and Crowdsourcing and Information Management Specialist, World Bank Anahi Ayala Iacucci who discussed “Crowdsourced Mapping and Verification in Humanitarian Response”. Iacucci introduced the audience to crisis mapping and the latest developments in that field. She explains how crisis mapping is applied in humanitarian emergencies and talks about the challenges for crisis mappers when it comes to verification of  crowdsourced information.

Iacucci headed up the third part as moderator, leading Helena Puig Larrauri, Co-Founder of the Standby Task Force (SBTF) and Harry Wood, Board of Directors, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) in the discussion about “Crisis Mapping – Best Practices”. Larrauri talked about the “Standby Task Force” a collection of volunteers that have started to create crisis maps that enabled them to respond more effectively and rapidly to huamntiarian crisis such as the Libya Crisis. Harry Wood talked about a similar idea and he explains how to create street maps in combination with other kinds of data with the help of crowdsourcing or as he prefers to call it “mass collaboration on the internet”. These maps are used in hunmaitarian crisis situations such as the Haiti earthquake to assist emergency responders on the ground. During the panel discussion, Helena and Harry discussed the heightened importance of verification of crowdsourced information in a crisis situation since false information could endanger the lives of volunteers on the ground or the people they are trying to help.

The final half of the day centered around the topic of “Verifying Crowdsourced Information – Journalists as Curators” and featured Matthew Eltringham, Founding Editor, BBC UGC Hub, Erik van Heeswijk, Digital Editor-in-Chief, VPRO, Anahi Ayala Iacucci, Media Innovation Advisor, Internews/ Crowdsourcing and Information Management Specialist, World Bank, David Clinch, Editorial Director, Storyful, and Charlie Beckett, Director, LSE Polis. Matthew presented several case studies that explain how user generated content is used in the the framework of traditional news outlets such as the BBC. Similar to David Clinch he emphasises the importance of core journalistic valus such as context and analysis – values that are now applied to the landscape of social media. Erik van Heeswijk sees an opportunity for journalists to turn user generated content into a high quality news sources. The last panel discusses cultural changes that come with the increased acceptance of social media and crowdsourcing in traditional journalism.

Following the “Maps, the Power of the Crowd, and Big Data Verification” session the EJC was able to take some extra time and interview each of the speakers individually. Below you will find each of the interviews, which all focused on “The Importance of Crowdsourced Mapping in Journalism”, in alphabetical order by name:

Anahi Ayala Iacucci (Internews/World Bank)


Charlie Beckett (LSE POLIS)


David Clinch (Storyful)


Erik van Heeswijk (VPRO)


Harry Wood (Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team)


Helena Puig Larrauri (The Standby Task Force)


Matthew Eltringham (BBC UGC Hub)

For additional reading please see Crowdsourcing Journalism: Prospects and Pitfalls and Mappers and the Media: Working Together?.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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