This blog is going to be a diary of a trip. I have no idea where the final destination of this trip is, but I can explain you where the starting point is.
Two main issues have been interesting me in my professional and personal development: the role of identity and the political meaning of information.
I am definitely a constructivist: identity is according to me shaped, changed and modified by interactions. Identity is also what primarily affects the definition of immediate and long-term goals, and so interests and actions are shaped and decided according to interactions. If you want to change those interactions you have automatically to work on the relationships that shape identities and not on the actions the express this identity. This is particularly valid in humanitarian contexts and in conflicts, where the definition of the different roles is completely shaped around the perception of the “enemy” or of the “humanitarian community” as such and much less by their actual actions.
The political meaning of information is something that I find incredibly fascinating: in nowadays world information is power and the role of the Internet as open and free space where interactions are possible in a completely different context that the one of the mainstream medias and governmental bodies has changed and is changing the picture and the (in)balance of power in the world. I will not go as far as to say that Internet is a democratizing tool, cause I think we are very far from that, but for sure it is providing a new space where new type of interactions are possible.
The concept of space here is important in a double sense: the Internet is a virtual space where people interact, but it is also a non-space, where the real physical delimitations of boundaries and the physical obstacles of communications are partially overcome. Drawing from this I am very much interested in understanding how and with what consequences changes in communication technologies have political consequences and how political powers relate to new technologies in terms of struggle for power or maintenance of the status quo.
Those are the bases of what this blog is going to be: a trip across those two ideas and the relationship between them. In this context two main issue, that according to me put them together, are going to almost dominate the picture: crowd-sourcing and crisis mapping.
Both those fields are right now my main interest because of their relationship with politics, information and power. I discover crowd-sourcing and crisis mapping recently by finding myself, almost randomly, studying Ushahidi for a UN agency that wanted to crate an interactive mapping system for development indicators in Iraq. This has led me to become months later, again very randomly, the Director of Ushahidi-Chile at the School of International and Public Affairs, while completing my Master degree at Columbia University in New York.
My blog is going to be a tentative to investigate how crowd-sourcing affect the political dimension and what it means in political terms to “give voice to the crowd”. If information is power and power affects identity because it affects relationships, then what it means and what are the implications and consequences of crowd-sourcing projects?
In this context crisis mapping is a step forward: crowd-sourcing with a spatial and temporal dimension in it. I am fascinated by the visual representation of crowd-sourced information in (near) real-time that platforms like Ushahidi make possible and even more by the implications of those tools in terms of information management in humanitarian context.
Crisis mapping is the ability to give a tridimensional aspect to information, where time, location and content are combined together as dimensions of a single act. Combined with crowd-sourcing this has huge consequences on the ability to use those information in crisis and on the direction of the flow of information. Again this leads us back to power and identity, space and politics and so on.
As conclusion I only would like to state clearly that this blog expresses only my personal views, and not the one of any organization or institution I have worked or currently work for.
Anahi Ayala Iacucci