Covering countries in political turmoil has opened the door to innovation: activists and citizen journalists are using maps, HTML5 and video to report the events of the Arab Spring instead of relying only on text.
This is one of the takeaways from a recent conference titled “Network, Social Media and Political Change in Middle East and North Africa (MENA)” held at the University of Victoria.
Experts discussed new media and social media trends in MENA, citing a few projects that citizen journalists, activists and bloggers have been involved in to “customize” the Internet to better fit their needs and political environment.
Cloud to Street, for example, is creating a crowdsourcing platform through online collaboration to help Egyptian activists maximize their political power, said Farhaan Ladhani, who represented the project at the conference.
Mapping has also emerged as an effective way of covering the news, noted Patrick Meier co-founder of the International Network of Crisis Mappers at Ushahidi, mentioning Syria Tracker, a Ushahidi-based map that documents deaths in the Syrian uprising by crowdsourcing information from Internet users and eyewitnesses.
More social-media friendly content are being produced in covering news and events in the region thanks to HTML5, said Katherine Maher, co-organizer, ICT for Development (ICT4D) Learning Network. HTML5 video facilitates posting more videos and pictures as well as making them more accessible since videos can be inserted with just a tag on many websites and played back on the latest mobile devices as well as on older browsers that require Flash.