Watch now: Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, explores how resiliency can empower even the most destitute and vulnerable communities. “When the World Bank was planning to invest $100 million dollars in upgrading the slums in Nairobi, these slum-dweller leaders were represented at the table.”
UPDATE April 2013: Oh dear. No fortnotes, and it’s a good 10 months since then. Maybe it’s easier to aim for yearnotes…
A couple of Mondays ago I started work as a Program Officer in the Media Program at the Open Society Foundation in London. After a decade or more working largely for civil society groups, moving to work for one of the world’s most influential philanthropic organisations is both an exciting new challenge and a privilege.
As part of helping me get my bearings, I’m going to try to keep regular notes on this blog (taking a realism cue from Roo Reynolds, fortnotes rather than weeknotes) on what I’ve been up to and what I am learning. If this has any use or relevance for others, then so much the better. (I tried this once before, but it proved harder as a freelancer than I hoped.)
I’ll include a selection of:
– people and organisations I meet and learn about
– trends, ideas or terminology I encounter or research
– new research that I find useful (you can also find lots of what I encounter on Tumblr and pinboard)
– tools or other things that help me in my work
I will not breach any security, confidentiality or privacy, and, before you ask, no, I won’t be talking about anything to do with OSF funding or internal matters. As ever, what I do post is going to be a personal lens on my work, and, as you’ll be accustomed to reading all over the shop by now, does not represent or claim to represent my employer’s perspective.
I spoke at last Thursday’s The Power of Information conference in London, organised by the Indigo Trust, the Institute for Philanthropy, and the Omidyar Network, on a human rights-focused panel alongside Stephanie Hankey of Tactical Technology Collective, Erica Hagen of GroundTruth / MapKibera, John Kipchumbah of SODNet, and Patrick Meier of Ushahidi (here’s a picture of the panelists, and here’s the Indigo Trust’s video of my talk). I also summarised this panel on a plenary round-up at the end of the day (here’s a video and a PDF of the notes I was talking from – in case you’re wondering what I was gesticulating about). [Text updated on 23 Sept to include videos from Indigo Trust. And on 26 Sept to add Indigo Trust’s coverage of the Cameras Everywhere report.]
My talk slides and words (a mix of what I wrote and on-the-day adaptations) are after the “more” link below. Before that, and besides the WITNESS Cameras Everywhere report I drew on for my presentation, here are the principal resources I mentioned on both panels that might be of interest both to attendees at the conference, and to those who followed the hashtag #giveandtech.
Interesting recent research:
– Joe Karaganis of the SSRC’s epic Media Piracy in Emerging Economies (2011) – if you are searching for empirical research on copyright and intellectual property around the world, this is an essential read (see also the Washington Declaration below).
– Aeron Davis’ 2009 paper New Media and Fat Democracy, on how ICTs are creating wider gaps between a growing empowered core of citizens, and a much larger group of disengaged citizens (thanks to Ben Wagner for the pointer).
– Andrew Chadwick’s new paper The Hybrid Media System, which takes aim at false dichotomies between new and more established media.
– UNESCO’s recent Freedom of Connection, Freedom of Expression report.
Collaboration between multiple stakeholders:
– The remarkable Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest (and my personal perspective on it).
Talking to donors:
– Chris Blattman makes the case to DfID for conducting R&D, rather than M&E, in a recent post and presentation (PDF) called Evaluation 3.0.
– [not mentioned on the day, but very useful nonetheless –>] James Deane, Head of Policy at the BBC World Service Trust, and my former boss at Panos London, on lessons he has drawn from recent high-level meetings on talking with donors about media development – but which seem instructive for, and broadly applicable to ICTs and human rights too.
I’m incredibly proud to have worked with WITNESS over the past year or so researching and writing the new Cameras Everywhere report on human rights, video, media and technology. Here’s the release for the report, for which I am lead author and researcher, with Sam Gregory, Yvette Alberdingkthijm and Bryan Nunez – and here is a direct download link (pdf):
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS NEED BETTER PROTECTION WHEN USING VIDEO AND TECHNOLOGY; TECH COMPANIES HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY
WITNESS Provides a Roadmap Report on How to Create a More Powerful Video-for-Change Revolution
NEW YORK–September 6, 2011–As human rights activists and ordinary citizens risk their lives across the Arab world, WITNESS’ latest report argues that we have not yet done enough to empower and protect those who attempt to expose injustices through video.
Video, a powerful tool for change, is enabling the public to become human rights activists on an unprecedented scale. It captures the stories of those facing human rights abuses and the direct evidence of violations. But empowering and protecting activists at the heart of this change and harnessing the power of video and technology to defend human rights, is risky, WITNESS warns.
Launching today, the Cameras Everywhere report calls on technology companies, investors, policymakers and civil society to work together in strengthening the practical and policy environments, as well as the information and communication technologies, used to defend human rights.
“Today, technology is enabling the public, especially young people, to become human rights activists, and with that come incredible opportunities. Activists, developers, technology companies and social media platforms are beginning to realize the potential of video to bring about change, but a more supportive ecosystem is urgently needed. It is our duty, through this ecosystem, to empower and protect those who are risking their lives,” said musician and advocate Peter Gabriel, co-founder of WITNESS.
For the Cameras Everywhere report, over 40 senior experts and practitioners in technology and human rights, like Marietje Schaake (Member of European Parliament), Bob Boorstin (Director, Public Policy, Google) and danah boyd (Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research), were interviewed on issues of privacy and safety, information authentication and management, network vulnerabilities, ethics and policy. Key findings from the report include:
- Video is increasingly central to human rights work and campaigning. With more human rights video being captured and shared by more people than ever before–often in real-time and using non-secure mobile and networked tools– new skills and systems are needed to optimize lasting human rights impact.
- Technology providers are increasingly intermediaries for human rights activism. They should take a more proactive role in ensuring their tools are secure and integrating human rights concerns into their content and user policies.
- Retaliation against human rights defenders caught on camera is a commonplace, yet it is alarming how little discussion there is about visual privacy. Everyone is discussing and designing for privacy of personal data, but the ability to control one’s personal image is neglected. The human rights community’s long-standing focus on anonymity as an enabler of free expression must now develop a new dimension–the right to visual anonymity.
- New vulnerabilities are emerging due to advanced technologies, like facial recognition, which are often instant, global, networked and beyond the control of any individual.
- With more videos coming directly from a wider range of sources, we must also find ways to rapidly verify such information, to aggregate it in clear and compelling ways and to preserve it for future use.
- Ethical frameworks and guidelines for online content are in their infancy and do not yet explicitly reflect or incorporate human rights standards.
- Neither the United States nor the European Union routinely applies human rights standards in forming internet policies. And intergovernmental organizations, such as the UN, are not yet agile players within the policymaking arena of the internet. Meanwhile some governments, notably China, are making headway in both shaping policy against domestic freedom of expression and seeking to influence international standards.