Big Bytes

Riot mapping and social media – a future kick-ass for political babas, mullas, popes!

Recent riots have shown that verifying sources can be a tricky job, relying on India’s biased elite media can be a deadly affair. I watch these to know how much low can they reach morally, free fall bungee jumping from ethics towards fun of quick money & fame.. Outrageous, yes. Let them declare REAL assets openly and prove if not paid by political masters, direct or indirect. Reading between lines, body language, their line of rich by loot / pet panel experts, I’ll remain skeptical, however prolific their oratory or writing maybe.

Forget “business media”, how can we make effective use of “social media” as reliable news channels for the masses, by the masses? One of the claims often made around real-time social media is that “we’re all journalists now”, capable of reporting the news as we witness it and being able to broadcast our reports on an equal footing with the “business media”. The truth varies depending on who is saying or reading this, sometimes far from reality at the mercy of systematic mutation of cultural, religious, communal & social fabrics.

One way of quickly getting an idea about whether a status update has been posted by someone who claims to have witnessed an event like a communal riot at a specific location is to try to find out whether the update has been tagged with Geo-location data. Many phones now include GPS services that capture the latitude and longitude of the device, and can add this information directly to a status update (or photo) as meta-data. Through so-called APIs (Application Programmable Interfaces), it’s possible to search social media websites in near real-time for updates generated in a particular area (as identified by Geo-location meta-data) and plot it on a map.

Of course, the credentials of anyone claiming to be local journalist who isn’t followed by at least some local people will be in doubt. In a more general case, if a social media user only follows and is followed by bots and spam accounts, you might suspect their legitimacy. By reading their comments and seeing who they communicate with explicitly, you can also get a feel for how plausible they might be as a source. And by combing the two (mapping both geolocation and social relationships) you can also start to see whether or not groups of individuals who are known to each other are commenting about an event from the same location.

But can India’s faint-heated, opaque and corrupt bhakts dare to even think about such levels of transparency? How will they entice voters otherwise? Forget if we can plan, setup, implement and deliver transparent results via social media mapping. So what if it is dangerous to commoners, the ruling gangs of all shades love such riots, covertly. My ruled state had 2, yours had 4… the ace debate!

If you want to assess the power of social media in situations like riots, you should check out the work of Nottinghamshire Police of UK, in recent riots, they were comforting their communities with constant use of social media, reassuring people who raised concerns about loved ones or certain villages. They worked tirelessly, day and night, to ensure that people felt protected both on the streets and through social media.

One man asked them if his relative in XXXX Street was okay, and within a minute he had a reply confirming the well-being of residents on that street – he was also told that no reports of that relative had come in via 999, so she was presumed safe. In similar situations in India, you can find some policeman leaking saliva and enjoying the riots, some honest ones being stopped by masters from taking actions, some doing politics, some sleeping, but no one cares to address the situation or communicate.

Thousands of residents said with nothing but compliments for UK Police, commenting on how efficient and helpful their communication was. Like fearful Indian media and politicians, David Cameron also talked of disabling social media during UK riots, but wish to forget that they are a powerful tool in installing some confidence into a community ravaged by hate politics. Social media without the big fancy brands is a very powerful tool and it can be used to achieve some fantastic things. Source:

How can we make sense of all the information we are bombarded with? Visualisation can help. This is because, of all the human senses, the visual sense is one of the most powerful. In this series, we will re-post on how to interpret, and in some cases create, visual representations of data and information that can help us to see things in a different way – maybe little far from the propaganda of paid media or proprietary software sellers, if done by non-corrupt, not-for-profit transparent people.

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