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    No Straight Lines: participatory reading

    We now have an open access participatory reading platform for No Straight Lines So here is an open invitation to swing by and have a look at No Straight Lines:  It looks at how we can build better more sustainable societies, organisations and vibrant economies through innovative practice. It argues we ... read on »

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    The challenge of living in a non-linear world [2]

    This is the second part of a general introduction to the book and project No Straight Lines: making sense of our non-linear world The opportunity and the design challenge Which brings me on to the title and the challenge of this project. Be realistic, imagine the impossible is taken from a poster ... read on »

A Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

The challenge of living in a non-linear world [3]
January 25th, 2012

This is the third and final part of a general introduction to the book and project NO Straight Lines: making sense of our non-linear world

nsl-cvr-final_3The coming age of the Craftsman
Why is the idea of craftsmanship significant at this epochal moment in time? Because it is about shaping our future and the ‘engaged’ craftsman brings the full power of humanity to bear upon his work. His hand is guided by his eye, informed by his creative mind; his productivity the act of unique creation. Indeed, the master craftsman is adept in using a philosophical framework, as well as tools and materials, to deliver useful things to the world. But more than that, the craftsman must be open constantly to new ideas; he is essentially always in beta. Therefore, we cannot engage with our uncertain non-linear world with the linear and inflexible orthodoxy of logic alone. The craftsman’s critical eye and creative mind is vital to evaluating new possibilities; he must be open to new ideas, information, tools and materials to make things that enable humanity to flourish. This approach is inherently more creative in that it synthesises all aspects of what make us truly human. But the 21st century craftsman does not only exist in the dusty workshop of a forgotten age; a games designer is a craftsman, a Linux programmer is a craftsman, innovative organisations like Local Motors and Ushahidi, which are discussed in more detail in Chapters 3 and 8, embed craftsmanship into everything they do. These are well designed responses to what real life previously perceived as intractable as the plot line in Catch 22.
And so I come to this project with a strongly held belief, that there is an opportunity to bring a way of thinking to many of the seemingly intractable problems that confront us today. But this requires us to think and act as craftsmen and women and apply our critical thinking to understanding our non-linear world, which is in part shaped by participatory cultures, open, complex and seemingly ambiguous systems that are highly interdependent of each other. We need to be inspired to be epic, to seek epic wins – to design for transformation, to make informed choices and co-author innovative new possibilities that can enable humanity to lead a life not constrained by the crushing reality of industrial-age thinking but one designed around the primary needs of humanity. We need to explore our non-linear world, not exploit it.

Connecting to our best possible future

I believe there is much evidence demonstrating the possibility of this society. It exists in philosophical frameworks, language and literacy, legal frameworks, tools and technologies, and real stories of how others have been motivated by a real desire to create new and better answers to what others would call unsolvable, wicked problems. And it has been my mission to bring together these separate component parts to offer to you a vision of the world which is both realistic and eminently possible. But to create this regenerative society requires us to take a voyage of discovery and to look upon the world as Proust would say with fresh eyes. This is the world of no straight lines and this project is how we make sense of this non-linear world, and then act in it.

You can buy the book at (Amazon US) or (Amazon UK) and there will be an epub version available very soon

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Citizen reporting in Kenya via SMS and Twitter
August 11th, 2010

“Long queues of voters waiting peacefully.” “Needy voters assisted.” “mp agents going round poll stations influencing people 2 vote no.” These are some of the 1,230 tweets and text messages sent out by citizen monitors of Kenya’s referendum last week. The platform enabling this crowdsourcing of on-the-ground election reports is called Uchaguzi, which means “election” in Kiswahili. Uchaguzi is a spinoff of an earlier platform called Ushahidi, meaning “testimony,” which was developed during the violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential election, and has since been used to map damage from the BP oil spill, earthquake victims in Haiti, and xenophobic violence in South Africa (and has been blogged about many times on right here on Smart Mobs). Both platforms follow the same model: set up a special SMS shortcode, Twitter hashtag (#uchaguzi for Kenya’s referendum), or e-mail address, publicize it, and solicit reports from ordinary people. And voilà: Kenyan citizens self-organize a robust citizen reporting system, a classic case of smart mobbiness, in a country with seemingly more camels than cellphones. “‘It’s something very new for Kenyans to know that they can instantly report an incident to an independent monitor far away who will guarantee to investigate,’ says Charles Kithika, a website fix-it guy at Uchaguzi. ‘It will discourage the bad people from doing things they used to think they could get away with.'” And in fact, although 166 “Security Issues” were reported, there were none of actual violence. Plans to bring similar platforms to other East African countries with impending elections are in the works. Click here to read the original article.

Chile Earthquake / Hawaii Tsunami updates
February 27th, 2010

Patrick Meier : “Add good media sources for #Chile to this Google Doc”

@USHAHIDI-Chile: Sources, Feeds, Twitter Lists, Images, Maps, Utilities, etc

Via @acarvin: OpenStreetMap has set up their wiki workspace for the quake: http://bit.ly/9MLWY6 #crisiscamp #osm #Chile

Hashtag #crisiscamp tracks tweets on the volunteer work happening in response to the quake

Google Person Finder Chile Earthquake

#Hawaii #Tsunami :Huffington Post(s) Live Updates

The social-media after-shock in Haiti
January 20th, 2010

The aftereffects of last week’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti are still being felt. Tele-communications infrastructure has been pushed to its limits in Haiti while the Internet has become literally a crucial life-line The earthquake Haiti experienced on January 12, 2010 was also felt throughout the world as it was rapidly communicated through traditional and social-media channels at an astonishing pace. Traditional broadcast media-outlets interrupted their scheduled programming to bring it’s audience breaking NEWS, while social-media erupted with chatter about a natural disaster that would become to be known as one of the most devastating in human history.

Jason Palmer, a science and technology reporter for BBC News, emphasized that “the collapse of traditional channels of communication in Haiti has again highlighted the role of social media and the internet in disasters.” for amassing aide and coordinating rescue efforts for the region.

While aid and relief efforts are in progress a communication aftershock of sorts is being felt within the social-media sphere. A quick search for #Haiti on Twitter reveals remnants of this aftershock, clearly demonstrating that Twitter has become one of the primary channels of communications related to aid and relief  for Haiti.

Many commercial social-media services such as Google are helping people to stay connected in post-earthquake Haiti.  Facebook is exploding with activity with the establishment of  hundreds of groups.

The free and open-source crowdsourcing project Ushahidi is also involved in the relief efforts by helping track information in real-time and coordinating volunteers for post-earthquake Haiti. providing an outlet for people to show their support for the Haitians who have survived the quake.

Google Crisis Response is helping by providing free Google Voice calls to Haiti and producing missing persons lists.

Digital Mapmakers Help Haitian Rescue Efforts
January 19th, 2010

@RedCross Slideshow of All American Red Cross photo’s from #Haiti
about 1 hour ago from web

@TheNextWebUK Crisis Camp Haiti – London’s Tech Community Lends A Hand ; http://crisiscommons.org/
less than 5 seconds ago from web

RT @ushahidi @Carol_Waters : @Apple: The #crisismappers Ushahidi desperately need your help- Can we borrow iMacs to save lives in #Haiti?
less than 20 seconds ago from web

RT @Carol_Waters @CrisisCamp @ushahidi has RSS 2 nearly all responders in #haiti 2 make twitter v effective send NEW updates w/addresses 2 @crisismappers PLS RT
2 minutes ago from web

@ushahidi ~1,000 reports have been added + mapped to #Ushahidi since #Haitiquake = ~150 reports per day for 7 straight days
about 2 hours ago

“The Int’l Network of Crisis Mappers (CM*Net) is transforming disaster response”- @jcrowley, @crisismapping http://www.crisismappers.net
8:31 AM Jan 17th from web

NECN SCI-TECH:(video) Tufts students map relief effort with social media http://tinyurl.com/y9pxeqb @FletcherSchool @NECN @TuftsUniversity
3:07 PM Jan 16th from web

@FletcherSchool Situation Room in Boston is resuming full operations. Filtering and mapping reports on @Ushahidi from all sources possible
3:00 PM Jan 16th from web

@USCAnnenberg School Crisis Camp #Haiti Los Angeles Collaborates on tech projects aimed to assist relief efforts http://tinyurl.com/yjstpc4
8:53 AM Jan 16th from web

More about @Ushahidi @patrickmeier CrisisMapping,EarlyWarning, MobileTech, DigitalActivism,CivilResistance http://irevolution.wordpress.com/
8:38 AM Jan 16th from web

@Ushahidi @patrickmeier reports different groups like Trilogy International bring cellular solutions in #Haiti
8:34 AM Jan 16th from web

@patrickmeier reports: Worked 80 hrs straight on @Ushahidi w @FletcherSchool friends 2ensure nearrealtime crisis mapping f #Haiti disaster response
8:24 AM Jan 16th from web

Digital Mapmakers Help Haitian Rescue Efforts @techreview [ @Ushahidi [Emergency Info Services EIS ]
8:21 AM Jan 16th from web

Follow @patrickmeier @Ushahidi and @FletcherSchool and/or smartmobs blogger tweep gervis smartmobs twitter list or the list development cooperation for current updates on the Ushahidi accomplishments.

Open Mobile Consortium Launches
June 9th, 2009

The Open Mobile Consortium launched on May 26th. The organization recognizes that creating accessible technologies for disadvantaged countries can help find solutions for more effective humanitarian efforts.

The consortium has focused on creating open sourced mobile applications for humanitarian work, leading the charge and collaborating with nine high-profile organizations to develop the platforms.

Follows is their press release for more information and details on their work:

New York, NY – May 26, 2009 – The Open Mobile Consortium today launched its global development community to help organizations working towards social good to better collaborate and share mobile phone-based technologies. The OMC’s open source softwre tools help organizations to better serve the health, humanitarian and development needs of the “bottom billion,” the poorest and most disenfranchised citizens of the world.

The Open Mobile Consortium is an unprecedented collaboration across organizations to serve communities with open source mobile tools. Together, they are building a vibrant set of platforms for use, at no cost, with no restrictions.

With almost 280 million subscribers in Africa alone, mobile phones are recognized as instruments of change in finance, agriculture, media and development work. Mobile technology can easily provide data on food prices to farmers, patient information to remote medical clinics, and help track supplies and logistics. It is estimated that by 2010, 1 in 3 Africans will own a mobile phone. The Open Mobile Consortium was founded to develop and bring to scale free and open-source solutions that leverage the power and ubiquity of mobile phones.

“OMC’s approach is a radical departure from how the traditional humanitarian and development works,” said Robert Kirkpatrick, Chief Technology Officer of InSTEDD and chair of OMC. “Typically, organizations must compete for funding grants, which frequently leads to ‘silo’ mentality and hesitation to fully share key technologies.

By contrast, we are agreeing to work together to share source code, standards, protocols, approaches and lessons learned. We’re even sharing development plans and testing each others’ software. As a result, we’re building a vibrant community and making very rapid progress.”

Katrin Verclas, founder of MobileActive.org and a founding member of the Open Mobile Consortium, says, “The mobile technology explosion has put more than four billion phones in use around the world. In the hands of organizations working for social good, and with easily available and accessible software, mobile phones can significantly improve the health and well-being of people in developing countries around the world. But there are technology and collaboration barriers. The Open Mobile Consortium aims to eliminate these barriers by developing interoperable, free and open source mobile platforms, and we encourage others to join us.”

“Mobile technology can make a huge difference in key areas like access to health care and education, and UNICEF helped form the Open Mobile Consortium to challenge the open-source community to play a role in this process,” says Erica Kochi, co-lead of UNICEF’s Innovation team.

“OMC is a forum to pool expertise and develop partnerships to empower those most in need and to use mobile technology to improve their lives.” The OMC strives to enable organizations working in the field in developing countries to collaborate across disparate platforms and products, reduce redundancies, and create a mechanism for freely sharing technical tools, information and approaches.

OMC has already brought together a number of mobile technology tools for collaboration and sharing. These include, among others:

  • CommCare, a mobile-phone based application that allows community health workers to provide better, more efficient care and improve coordination of community health programs;
  • Mobilisr, an open source enterprise class mobile messaging platform for NGOs around the world;
  • Mesh4X, a platform for seamless cross-organizational information sharing between mobile devices, databases, desktop applications, and websites;
  • RapidSMS, an open source platform allowing for any mobile phone to use SMS to collect data, used in Malawi, Ethiopia and Nigeria to collect information and provide rapid feedback to field workers;
  • GeoChat, a flexible open source group communications tool that enables mobile field communications and situational awareness during emergencies;
  • Ushahidi, a web-based platform that any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information.

About the Open Mobile Consortium

The Open Mobile Consortium is a thriving community of mobile technologists and practitioners working to drive open source mobile solutions for more effective and efficient humanitarian relief and global social development. Founding member organizations include Millennium Villages Project, Cell Life, Dimagi, D-Tree, InSTEDD, MobileActive, TextToChange, UNICEF and Ushahidi. We are at http://www.open-mobile.org.

Citizen Powered Election Monitoring in India (votereport.in)
April 13th, 2009


Patrick Meier announced that the Ushahidi platform has been deployed at VoteReport.in [blog] to crowdsource the monitoring of Indiaas upcoming elections. [Press Release] [@votereportindia on Twitter] [Votereportindia’s PbWiki] [FAQ]

Patrick is a Doctoral Fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) where he co-leads the Crisis Mapping and Early Warning Program. He is on the Ushahidi Board of Advisors and blogs at iRevolution.

‘The Story Behind Vote Report India’, by Gaurav Mishra

Vote Report India (votereport.in) is a collaborative citizen-driven election monitoring platform for the 2009 Indian general elections.

Basically, users contribute direct SMS, email, and web reports on violations of the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct (PDF). The platform will then aggregate these direct reports with news reports, blog posts, photos, videos and tweets related to the elections from all relevant sources, in one place, on an interactive map.

We are hoping that Vote Report India will not only increase transparency and accountability in the Indian election process, but also provide the most complete picture of public opinion in India during the elections.

Vote Report India is a non-partisan all-volunteer collaboration between software developers, designers, academics, and other professionals to bring transparency to the 2009 Indian elections.

Vote Report India is powered by two path-breaking non-profit open-source projects — Ushahidi and SwiftRiver — and managed by eMoksha. Ushahidi is an award-winning platform that crowd-sources crisis information. SwiftRiver is a platform that makes sense of multiple sources of information in a fast-changing crisis situation. eMoksha is a non-profit organization that aims to enable stronger democracies through increased citizen awareness and engagement.

Crisis Mapping Mainstream Media, Citizen Journalism, and Ushanidi during Post Election Violence in Kenya
October 30th, 2008

After posing the question “Are citizen journalists playing an increasingly important role in documenting violent conflict and human rights violations?” at the 2008 Global Voices Summit, Peter Meier, along with his colleague Kate Brodock mapped the crisis in Kenya to give weight to his affirmative answer to that question.

Their prelim finding were:

* Mainstream media reported actual death count before citizen journalists; however, on many accounts, mainstream media did not report on incidents leading to actual deaths, i.e., early warning signs;
* Citizen journalist reports and Ushahidi reports did not overlap geographically with mainstream media reports;
* Citizen journalists tended to report as soon as violence started, well before mainstream media;
* The number of comments on citizen journalist blogs increased during the 30-day period, or during particular periods of violence;
* The comment section was also used as a medium for real-time updating;
* Many citizen journalist bloggers used real-time updates sent to them via SMS, primarily from rural areas;
* Citizen journalism reports declined after the launch of Ushahidi;
* Ushahidi reports document an important number of violent events not reported by the mainstream media and citizen journalists;
* Contrary to news media and citizen journalist reports, Ushahidi data always had specific location information;
* Ushahidi reports also covered a wider geographical area than both mainstream news and citizen journalist bloggers

They are looking for feedback in order to improve the project, so please contact them if you’d like to help. You can find more information including a PDF on Slideshare.

If it works in Africa it will work anywhere
October 5th, 2008

Erik Hersman talked at Picnic 08 on ‘Surprising Africa – what we can learn from Africa’ about the way they use Mobile Phones. Here is the slideshow of Erik’s presentation.

The truth about Africa is that there are some very interesting, and surprising, developments coming out of Africa. Every culture modifies use or the device itself to meet local needs – this is no different in Africa, and we’re seeing that evolution happen right before our eyes.

On Erik’s weblog White African you find the statistics and contextual info on some innovative payment systems.

Web strategist Eric Hersman founded Ushahidi a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Ushahidi’s roots are in the collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis.

Erik is also known from AfriGadget, a website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. A team of bloggers and readers contribute their pictures, videos and stories from around the continent. The stories of innovation are inspiring. It is a testament to Africans bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges.

Also read about his ideas on mobile blogging and check out some more articles of Erik Hersman.

PICNIC 2008: when we change the way we communicate we change society (Clay Shirky)
September 26th, 2008

‘How will PICNIC 2008‘ affect the lives of visitors? That’s the question on top of an interview with Monique van Dusseldorp, Programme Director of PICNIC. Monique answers: “I hope PICNIC will provide participants the opportunity to make real connections. I hope people will find new energy, get inspired by new ideas and start new conversations. Most of all, I hope that they will do something with all this. Because PICNIC is meant to be a starting point for new developments, a catalyst so to speak. We want things to happen

Monique said it well and reflects how many attendants like me feel about this event with such catalyzing power.

This posting briefly echoes Clay Shirky‘s keynote presentation ‘Here Comes Everybody‘ (read a blog report on Clay’s book) about how the spread of new forms of social interaction enabled by technology is changing the way humans form groups and exist within them.

(photo by Javier Candeira)

Here Comes Everybody (Marketingfacts interview with Clay Shirky about his new book) (book reviews) (comparable presentation)

This posting also captures the alarming message on ‘Secrets and Lies‘ of Intel’s anthropologist and director of user experience Genevieve Bell, pointing to the consequences for privacy and security that our conversations are stored, our pictures shared, our names Googleable. Genevieve gives us something to reflect on. ‘How are we changing?’ And can we connect? You may want to watch a comparable earlier presentation by Genevieve on lying and digital deception.

(photo by kandinski)

My reply to the question on top of this page would be: “It’s not about the tools, it’s about the people“. The saying is quoted from an earlier presentation of Ethan Zuckerman, the co-founder of Global Voices. Ethan’s outlook and knowledge about communities inspires me. And here he was on stage, giving us an update on vibrant and fast-moving technological and creative developments in cities and rural areas across Africa, from mobile banking to new communication patterns.

Just like last year again I have my personal Picnic champion. Last year that was Alex Steffen of WorldChanging for me, but this year I choose Ethan.

(photo by Erik Hersman) (tv interview with Ethan by TVents)

After Ethan’s presentation by coincidence I was sitting next to Erik Hersman of Ushahidi. Talking to Erik for a few minutes made it very clear to me. Meeting Erik Hersman and exchanging some words with him and with Ethan Zuckerman makes me tick. Masters of Media reviewed Erik’s contribution to the Surprising Africa part of Picnic. At Worldchanging Ethan blogged his impressions of being an afternoon at Picnic. Among many other things this is what I take home from PICNIC 2008, connected via LinkedIn to Erik Hersman and lots of inspiration on Surprising Africa. Thank you PICNIC! This conference will bring along real change.

Bruno Giussani covers on his weblog LunchoverIP the conference theme The Power of Mass Creativity

Master students of the University Of Amsterdam did a great job reporting on the presentations with the most impact on society:

Surprising Africa
Africa’s digital revolution-surprising Africa
Mobile phones in Africa
“Homophily can make you stupid”
Secrets and Lies
Commercial collaborations: tools, things and toys
The Long Here, the Big Now, and other tales of the networked city
Tracking Our World
Let all things be connected
Nike’s Michael Tchao and “Connecting Shoes”

For more extensive reports like the above on Picnic 2008 go to the content page on Masters of Mediaof the University of Amsterdam.

On Ethan Zuckerman’s weblog ‘My heart’s in Accra‘ you can read Ethan’s perception of the Picnic experience.

Picnic on pics
Picnic on tweets
Picnic on YouTube
Picnic on TVents
Picnic on Vimeo videos

TVents asked Smartmobs: Is there enough LOVE at Picnic? See how I love Picnic

For current Picnic 2008 news search on Google and Delicious with the tag: #picnic08

Like the prior PICNIC’s the archiv with video streams of all presentations will soon be online. So if you missed this groundbreaking event. Picnic will distribute the video streams which will give you a chance to take advantage of some of these inspiring sessions.

to be continued…

Previous features

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    Song Mob

    This video is making the rounds on blogs and email forwards. Can you think of anything smarter for a mob to be doing? read on »

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