Connecting the Dots

This article in last week’s Sunday NYTimes captured my imagination.

First it was the neat little graphic of events tracked for the earthquake in Haiti and “snomageddon” in D.C.

Then it was the name “Ushahidi,” testimony in Swahili. It’s sort of the opposite of crowd sourcing in which huge numbers of people with access to the web function as employees to provide information for a business. Ushahidi uses the power of the crowd, this time with cell phones to let the rest of the world know when and where disasters are occurring. It helped earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile. Its use has been worldwide.

The potential is fantastic. The Times article limited its discussion to cell phone users, but the Ushahidi web site makes clear that reports can arrive from any communications device and that users of the site can find not only maps, but summaries of the latest information and interviews with the people working in the field. The best current uses seem to be election watches – at the moment in Mexico and India – and the anti-violence efforts.

There’s a connection here to the slicing and dicing that’s going on in music and literature that verges on plagiarism, but my tired brain can’t wrap around the concepts at this point.

More later.

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