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August 25 2012

17:51

Connecting through the Libyan revolution: The people behind Feb17voices

On The Media :: One year ago this week, Libyan rebels took control of the capital city Tripoli, ending the 42-year rule of Muammar al-Qaddafi. When the Libyan uprising began in February of 2011, OTM producer Sarah Abdurrahman told us about Feb17voices, a project she was involved in to get information out of Libya during a media blackout. Last month, Sarah went to Tripoli to witness Libya's election and to meet the people behind the voices.

Listen to the audio by Sarah Abdurrahman, www.onthemedia.org

Jeff Jarvis, here:

V. nice @onthemedia story by Sarah Abdurrahman on love & loss & a little media in the Libya revolution: onthemedia.org/2012/aug/24/co…

— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) August 25, 2012
Tags: Libya

August 16 2012

14:00

Did Global Voices Use Diverse Sources on Twitter for Arab Spring Coverage?

Citizen journalism and social media have become major sources for the news, especially after the Arab uprisings of early 2011. From Al Jazeera Stream and NPR's Andy Carvin to the Guardian's "Three Pigs" advertisement, news organizations recognize that journalism is just one part of a broader ecosystem of online conversation. At the most basic level, journalists are following social media for breaking news and citizen perspectives. As a result, designers are rushing to build systems like Ushahidi's SwiftRiver to filter and verify citizen media.

Audience analytics and source verification only paint part of the picture. While upcoming technologies will help newsrooms understand their readers and better use citizen sources, we remain blind to the way the news is used in turn by citizen sources to gain credibility and spread ideas. That's a loss for two reasons. Firstly, it opens newsrooms up to embarrassing forms of media manipulation. Most importantly, we're analytically blind to one of bloggers' and citizen journalists' greatest incentives: attention.

Re-imagining media representation

For my MIT Media Lab master's thesis, I'm trying to re-imagine how we think about media representation in online media ecosystems. Over the next year, my main focus will be gender in the media. But this summer, for a talk at the Global Voices Summit in Nairobi, I developed a visualization of media representation in Global Voices, which has been reporting on citizen media far longer than most news organizations.

(I'm hoping the following analysis of Global Voices convinces you that tracking media representation is exciting and important. If your news organization is interested in developing these kinds of metrics, or if you're a Global Voices editor trying to understand whose voices you amplify, I would love to hear from you. Contact me on Twitter at @natematias or at natematias@gmail.com.)

Media Representation in Global Voices: Egypt and Libya

My starting questions were simple: Whose voices (from Twitter) were most cited in Global Voices' coverage of the Arab uprisings, and how diverse were those voices? Was Global Voices just amplifying the ideas of a few people, or were they including a broad range of perspectives? Global Voices was generous enough to share its entire English archive going back to 2004, and I built a data visualization tool for exploring those questions across time and sections:

globalvoices.jpg

Let's start with Egypt. (Click to load the Egypt visualization.) Global Voices has been covering Egypt since its early days. The first major spike in coverage occurred in February 2007 when blogger Kareem Amer was sentenced to prison for things he said on his blog. The next spike in coverage, in February 2009, occurred in response to the Cairo bombing. The largest spike in Egypt coverage starts at the end of January 2011 in response to protests in Tahrir Square and is sustained over the next few weeks. Notice that while Global Voices did quote Twitter from time to time (citing 68 unique Twitter accounts the week of the Cairo bombing), the diversity of Twitter citation grew dramatically during the Egyptian uprising -- and actually remained consistently higher thereafter.

Tracking twitter citations

Why was Global Voices citing Twitter? By sorting articles by Twitter citation in my visualization, it's possible to look at the posts which cite the greatest number of unique Twitter accounts. Some posts reported breaking news from Tahrir, quoting sources from Twitter. Others report on viral political hashtag jokes, a popular format for Global Voices posts. Not all posts cite Egyptian sources. This post on the global response to Egyptian uprising shares tweets from around the world.

twitteraccounts.jpg

By tracking Twitter citation in Global Voices, we're also able to ask: Whose voices was GlobalVoices amplifying? Citation in blogs and the news can give a source exposure, credibility, and a growing audience.

In the Egypt section, the most cited Twitter source was Alaa Abd El Fattah, an Egyptian blogger, software developer, and activist. One of the last times he was cited in Global Voices was in reference to his month-long imprisonment in November 2011.

Although Alaa is prominent, Global Voices relied on hundreds of other sources. The Egypt section cites 1,646 Twitter accounts, and @alaa himself appears alongside 368 other accounts.

One of those accounts is that of Sultan al-Qassemi, who lives in Sharjah in the UAE, and who translated arabic Tweets into English throughout the Arab uprisings. @sultanalqassemi is the fourth most cited account in Global Voices Egypt, but that accounts for only 28 posts out of the 65 where he is mentioned. This is very different from Alaa, who is cited primarily just within the Egypt section.

sultan.jpg

Let's look at other sections where Sultan al-Qassemi is cited in Global Voices. Consider, for example, the Libya section, where he appears in 18 posts. (Click to load the Libya visualization.) Qassemi is cited exactly the same number of times as the account @ChangeInLibya, a more Libya-focused Twitter account. Here, non-Libyan voices have been more prominent: Three out of the five most cited Twitter accounts (Sultan al-Qassemi, NPR's Andy Carvin, and the Dubai-based Iyad El-Baghdadi) aren't Libyan accounts. Nevertheless, all three of those accounts were providing useful information: Qassemi reported on sources in Libya; Andy Carvin was quoting and retweeting other sources, and El-Baghdadi was creating situation maps and posting them online. With Libya's Internet mostly shut down from March to August, it's unsurprising to see more outside commentary than we saw in the Egypt section.

globalvoiceslibya.jpg

Where Do We Go From Here?

This very simple demo shows the power of tracking source diversity, source popularity, and the breadth of topics that a single source is quoted on. I'm excited about taking the project further, to look at:

  • Comparing sources used by different media outlets
  • Auto-following sources quoted by a publication, as a way for journalists to find experts, and for audiences to connect with voices mentioned in the media
  • Tracking and detecting media manipulators
  • Developing metrics for source diversity, and developing tools to help journalists find the right variety of sources
  • Journalist and news bias detection, through source analysis
  • Comparing the effectiveness of closed source databases like the Public Insight Network and Help a Reporter Out to open ecosystems like Twitter, Facebook, and online comments. Do source databases genuinely broaden the conversation, or are they just a faster pipeline for PR machines?
  • Tracking the role of media exposure on the popularity and readership of social media accounts

Still Interested?

I'm sure you can think of another dozen ideas. If you're interested in continuing the conversation, try out my Global Voices Twitter Citation Viewer (tutorial here), add a comment below, and email me at natematias@gmail.com.

Nathan develops technologies for media analytics, community information, and creative learning at the MIT Center for Civic Media, where he is a Research Assistant. Before MIT, Nathan worked in UK startups, developing technologies used by millions of people worldwide. He also helped start the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing center in East London. Nathan was a Davies-Jackson Scholar at the University of Cambridge from 2006-2008.

This post originally appeared on the MIT Center for Civic Media blog.

August 07 2012

12:20

New radio station brings fun and freedom to Libya

DOHA Centre for Media Freedom :: Music and laughter spill out of the grey building in the Libyan capital which is home to Radio Zone, one of the hippest channels to hit the north African nation's airwaves after the ouster of Moamer Gaddafi. "The people haven't been heard for a while so we wanted to have a radio station where everybody can call in, speak their minds and not be afraid that they will be hung up on or made fun of," says presenter Fuad Gritli, 25.

A report by www.dc4mf.org

Tags: Libya Radio

May 05 2012

10:58

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon decries growing killings of journalists

DOHA :: "We have to protect journalists in democratic countries first of all. There are tens of countries which are democratic and do not respect the law as they should do," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at a UN event on press freedom organized by France and Greece. Reporters Without Borders said that more than 280 journalists and bloggers have been imprisoned this year, including 32 in Eritrea, 30 in China and 27 in Iran and 14 in Syria. But five have been detained in Azerbaijan, which is the UN Security Council president for May. Ban and press freedom groups have sought to stress the role of the media, and particularly the new social media, in covering the uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Syria over the past 18 months.

Continue to read www.dc4mf.org

April 25 2012

19:29

.@JohnPollock - People Power 2.0: How civilians helped win the Libyan information war

Technology Review :: Civilians have "rushed the field," says David Kilcullen, author of The Accidental Guerrilla, a renowned expert on counterinsurgency and a former special advisor to General David Petraeus during the Iraq War. Their communications can now directly affect a military operation's dynamics. "Information networks," he says, "will define the future of conflicts." That future started unfurling when Libyan networks—and a long list of global activists—began an information war against Qaddafi. Thousands of civilians took part, but one of the most important was a man who, to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson, used not only all the brains he had but all the brains he could borrow.

HT: Stephanie Lamy, also mentioned in the article by John Pollock

Continue to read John Pollock, www.technologyreview.com

Tags: Libya

March 29 2012

19:59

Traditional and citizen journalism are not adversaries

GigaOM :: As we have described a number of times at GigaOM, journalism has become something virtually anyone can practice now, thanks to social tools and digital media. This democratization of distribution has had a profound effect on the coverage of uprisings in Egypt and Libya and more recently in Syria. Thanks to YouTube, Twitter and other networks, more information is available about what is happening in those countries. But is it reliable?

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

March 27 2012

14:00

How Media-Savvy Activists Report From the Front Lines in Syria

In Syria, many activists and citizen journalists fill a media void and contribute to the global conversation on the uprising there by capturing and sharing their own footage. They're organized, trained, smart, strategic, and promote media -- much of it mobile -- with a purpose.

banyas.jpg

Mass demonstrations and state violence continue in Syria. Authorities are largely banning foreign reporters and have arrested Syrian journalists and bloggers. Outside of the country, many news outlets that report on the major events there cite "Syrian activists" as the source of information. Day-to-day events in cities around the country come to our attention largely because of the activists and citizen journalists who are systematically providing information to news outlets worldwide.

Thus, perhaps the way the term "citizen journalism" has been used to date is a misnomer in the context of recent events in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Activists on the ground and online don't just happen to capture and record media because they're in the right place at the right time. Instead, they systematically gather, and strategically disseminate media.

It may be time for a new term -- "activist media" who are reporting from the front lines -- that describes the organized media campaigns waged by these activists in a place where traditional media is largely absent.

a media revolution

A report from Channel 4 News noted that a "a band of brand-new, out-of-nowhere, self-styled TV news reporters has sprung up in besieged Syrian cities," contributing to a media revolution. The article highlighted the video below, in which a video journalist from the Baba al-Sebaa area of Homs reported, all the while dodging bullets toward the end of the video.

But videos like these are more than just valuable content. They're part of a cogent global narrative from a well-informed and well-equipped group of activists who use mobile phones to live-stream, video record, Skype, and take photos in very strategic ways to provide witness and testimony to the events in Syria. They inform a public outside of the country, as well as reinforce activism in many areas within Syria, conveying the story of an opposition movement.

Most of the reporting is, of course, coming from the front lines. But organizations both in and outside of the country are offering support and training, with mainstream media outlets publishing and pushing citizen content to a larger global audience to help reinforce the narrative of the rebellion.

The media-savvy activists use a number of astute dissemination strategies: Photos and videos are shared across multiple platforms alongside additional text context or transcripts, and often have metadata such as time, date, and location stamps. Content is being uploaded hourly, and often live, on any number of social media sites, blogs and live-streaming video services like Bambuser. And where Internet or mobile network access are shut down, footage is collected and distributed via alternatives such as the old-fashioned sneakernet.

You can read the complete story here on the Mobile Media Toolkit. We highlight ways that activists and citizens are strategically capturing, crafting and sharing news, as well as the organizations that help support their work.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Syria-Frames-of-Freedom and licensed under Creative Commons. 

February 27 2012

09:03

Malik Muhammad al-Mabrouk, 14 years, finds a voice in covering Lybia's revolution

New York Times :: Malik Muhammad al-Mabrouk sat two weeks ago in a darkened corner of the Uzu Hotel cafe lounge, the screen of his propped-up iPad illuminating his face. Notepad, pen and cellphone at the ready, and wearing his trademark beige photographer’s vest, he was preparing to interview a former opposition leader who recently returned to Libya after 30 years in exile. Nothing unusual for a working journalist, except that his deadline was also his bedtime: Malik is 14 years old.

Continue to read Mike Elkin, www.nytimes.com

Tags: Libya

October 09 2011

05:34

Editorial policy: Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera and "people journalism"

Guardian :: The revolutionary fervour of the Arab Spring came alive last night at City University London in a lecture by Wadah Khanfar, the former director general of Al-Jazeera.  In describing his reaction to the various uprisings, particularly in Egypt and Libya, he illustrated just what is meant by a journalism of attachment or commitment.

[Wadah Khanfar:] I learned from my experience as a reporter, and then as director of a media institution, an important basic fact: that we should always posit people at the centre of our editorial policy.

Continue to read Roy Greenslade, www.guardian.co.uk

August 28 2011

16:34

Khadija Teri, Tripoli, Libya: feeding an army of opposition fighters

Khadija Teri :: (by Khadija Teri): A few days ago while my husband and my son Yusef were out and about they came across a group of opposition fighters from Misrata. It turned out that one of them was a friend of one of my husband’s cousins. Libya after all is a small world and if you sit down to talk to someone for any length of time you will usually find some kind of connection. They chatted for a bit and then everyone went their separate ways.

Quite by chance they met up again the following day. Yusef ended up spending the day with the group. To say that he was thrilled is an understatement. He’s joined them and is off on an adventure. ...

Continue to read the piece by Khadija Teri, khadijateri.blogspot.com

June 11 2011

13:54

War and peace - Sebastian Junger on Tim Hetherington's death

Los Angeles Times :: Last Oscar season, author Sebastian Junger and photojournalist Tim Hetherington walked the red carpet together. Barely two months after the Oscars, on April 20, Hetherington was killed in a mortar attack in Misurata, Libya, where he was covering the rebel uprising against Moammar Kadafi's regime.

[Sebastian Junger:] War remains one of humanity's master narratives.

In the months since, Junger has resolved to pull back from combat journalism. "I'm not going to do any more front-line reporting, because I don't want to put my wife through what I went through with Tim," he said during a recent stopover in Los Angeles to promote the new paperback edition of his 2010 book "War,"

An interview by Reed Johnson, www.latimes.com

June 05 2011

05:40

Arab Spring - US writer Matthew VanDyke among journalists missing in Libya

Associated Press | Google :: As the uprisings of the "Arab Spring" began to unfold, writer Matthew VanDyke was at home in Baltimore, editing a book and film about his trips across the Middle East by motorcycle. An email from a friend in Libya convinced VanDyke that dispatches from that country's war would make a perfect epilogue. Now VanDyke has been missing for nearly three months. He's one of 17 journalists — mostly Libyans — detained by dictator Moammar Gadhafi's government or believed to be in custody in Libya.

Continue to read Sarah Brumfield, www.google.com

April 21 2011

14:28

Notifying Next of Kin in the Age of Facebook

When she picked up the phone, I could tell from the sound of her voice that she didn't know yet.

"I'm sorry to tell you this -- but I wanted you to hear from a friend, not Facebook. Tim Hetherington was killed in Libya. Chris Hondros too. I'm really sorry."

There's a nauseating absurdity to those words, but it's the conversation I had yesterday morning with a friend.

I'd been getting "pings" for an hour, mostly by Facebook IM, asking if I knew anything about the tweets coming out of Libya. I wasn't taking them especially seriously at first, having spent most of the last decade in the swashbuckling photojournalist's world of close calls, near-misses, slight embellishments, and wild exaggerations. In this very foggy realm of war and disaster, epic tales abound -- of firefights, explosions, abductions and the like -- but today's hype turned out to be real.

Contacting Next of Kin

As I began reading the SMS messages on my mobile, the phone rang. A friend in a newsroom, choking out words through tears that Tim was dead. Chris badly wounded. Another friend unaccounted for. Attempts were being made to reach Tim's girlfriend. Chris had just gotten engaged, and it was unknown if his fiancée had been contacted yet. No idea about their families.

By the time I got off the phone with her, and turned back to my laptop, conversation threads were spilling across Twitter feeds and Facebook walls. Prayers, questions, doubts, and speculation were spreading at digital speed.

I've been an embedded photographer, inserted with soldiers or Marines in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. I've often signed a contract known as the Embedded Media Ground Rules -- one of the most basic terms of the contract is that news of casualties is withheld, until such time as the next of kin have received official notice. When troops are killed, that process of notification means real, live, human messengers are dispatched to the doorsteps of mothers and wives - sometimes in a complex maneuver where multiple family members, spread out across different and distant locations must receive a coordinated, simultaneous knock on their doors.

In the forward "area of operation" controlled by the military, a communication blackout is usually imposed, with Internet and phone service, if they even exist, shut down until the next of kin have been contacted. It's one of the conditions that few journalists object to - most of us agree that no mother should have to learn of her son's death in the pages of a newspaper.

In the Facebook and Twitter age, the time delay of the print news cycle seems positively quaint. I thought about that as I watched real-time updates stream across my monitor and mobile screens -- and I wondered if Tim and Chris had family and close friends who hadn't even woken up yet in whatever time zone they were in.

News Spreads on the Social Network

For Tim and Chris, there weren't any media ground rules, and in rebel controlled territory in Libya, there was no Internet blackout. News of their deaths was transmitted across a personal social network that happened to be composed of professional communicators.

By mid-day, I'd learned that two other photographers had been wounded in the same incident. One of them was my friend Mike Brown, the other was a British photographer named Guy Martin who I've never met. The good news, at least, was that Mike had taken shrapnel to the shoulder, but was non-critical. The missing photographer, my friend Moises Saman, had made contact, and was safe, already in another country.

Conflicting reports kept coming about Chris - some said he's dead, others indicated that he suffered catastrophic head injuries but was clinging to life. There have been some angry comments about another photographer who first broke the news via Twitter or Facebook, and others of gratitude to him for assistance during the aftermath of the attack, as the wounded photographers received medical treatment.

Personally, I doubt that Tim and Chris probably would begrudge anyone for tweeting their deaths. In an information age, they lived and died by the sword, but it still feels kind of twisted.

If they could, my guess is that they'd both be advocating for a few whiskeys on their behalf. And that's where I'm headed.

Below is a photo I took of Tim Hetherington (left) and Basetrack's Balazs Gardi (right) in Brooklyn the night before Tim left for Libya.

tim hetherington and balazs gardi.jpg

March 03 2011

21:03

Video: Gaddafi’s vision of Libyan society

It can be hard to understand Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s seemingly delusional rantings. But this is a leader who has sought to turn Libya into a “jamahiriya” – his vision of a state of the masses.

During my time covering the North Africa for the BBC in the early 1990s, I visited Libya a couple of times. One of my TV reports from the time sought to explore how Gaddafi was trying to shape Libyan society.

Though it is from December 1994, I am sharing the video as think it helps us understand what life was like under the Libyan ruler.

March 02 2011

15:40

Leaks on demand – how the Wikileaks cables are being used

From a leak to a flood

Image by markhillary on Flickr

I’m probably not the only person to notice a curious development in how the Wikileaks material is being used in the press recently. From The Guardian and The Telegraph to The New York Times and The Washington Post, the news agenda is dictating the leaks, rather than the other way around.

It’s fascinating because we are used to seeing leaks as precious journalistic material that forms the basis of some of our best reporting. But the sheer volume of Wikileaks material – the vast majority of which still remains out of the public domain – has turned that on its head, with newsrooms asking: “Do the leaks say anything on Libya/Tunisia/Egypt?”

When they started dealing with Wikileaks data some newsrooms built customised databases to allow them to quickly find relevant documents. Recent events have proved that – not to mention the recruitment of staff who can quickly interrogate that data – to be very wise.

February 22 2011

18:36

February 21 2011

23:06

Real-time tweets from Egypt, Libya, Bahrain on Google Maps mashup

Software developer Virender Ajmani created a Google Maps Mashup that plots recent tweets from Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Iran in real-time. Check it out here.

(via HuffPo)

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