May 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In an exceptional feat of human rights reporting, the New York Times has created a compilation of videos from the Syrian conflict, with associated GIS data, tweets, and general information. It is a heart-wrenching, enraging, sickening, and mournful compilation to watch–but somehow essential to watch as well. I hope that this reporting will not become banal, and that the writing and reading of this post will be more than superficial. In the very least, I hope that we watch some of these videos and engrave them upon a portion consciousness that excites us to learn and do more; to not merely pass over this conflict as yet another, far removed, and somewhat surreal atrocity. Lets be informed. There is no obvious solution for what can or should happen to resolve this entrenched conflict; there are plenty of calls for and against international intervention (whatever that means and whoever it is), but does the average citizen even know enough to have an opinion?
A few of the videos depict entire families—-families once as vibrant, quirky, and alive as yours and mine, with tiny children and future hopes—-massacred. To recognize that these are real, once living, men, women, and children is essential, but in a digitally overwrought world it is also hard to imagine. So take a moment to imagine. Genuinely stop now and imagine.
You may not know much about the Syrian conflict, and you could know more. Enough, at least, to know where Syria is and bit about it’s culture and ardent conflict.
I realize that there are wars, atrocities, issues, and injustices all around the world. This blog is a tiny attempt to highlight some of them. There is no hierarchy intimated here. They all deserve our attention, energy, and informed activism. But in this post, the bell tolls for Syria.
May 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In the world of international criminal justice, it would be easy to think that the ICC's website is a trivial matter. But it's not. So I was thrilled to read that Kevin Jon Heller has written a brief but critically important plea to the ICC to update its website:
The ICC’s website is its public face. Scholars, activists, and interested laypeople — many who live in the situations under investigation — rely on it as their primary source of information about the Court’s activities.
May 15, 2013 § 1 Comment
“The Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to New York screens from June 13 to 23, 2013, with a program of 20 challenging and provocative films from across the globe that call for justice and social change. Now in its 24th edition, the festival will once again be presented at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and this year adds downtown screenings at the IFC Center.” Read a full list of film synopses here.
April 9, 2013 § 1 Comment
“[Early in 1942], Jan Karski, a twenty-eight-year-old Polish diplomat and Roman Catholic had disquised himself as a Jew, donning an armband with the Star of David, and smuggled himself through a tunnel into the Warsaw ghetto. Posing as a Ukrainian militiaman, he also infiltrated Belzec, a Nazi death camp near the border between Poland and Ukraine. In late 1942 Karski escaped carrying hundreds of documents on miniature micro-film contained in the shaft of a key. He arranged to meet in London..on the eve of the meeting, Schwarzbart examined Karski’s documents, and, aghast, cabled the World Jewish Congress in New York, describing suffering of the Jews in Poland:
JEWS IN POLAND ALMOST COMPLETELY ANNIHILATED STOP READ REPORTS DEPORTATION THEN THOUSAND JEWS FOR DEATH STOP IN BELZEC FORCED TO DIG THEIR OWN GRAVE MASS SUICIDE HUNDREDS CHILDREN THROWN ALIVE INTO GUTTERS DEATH CAMPS IN BELZEC THREBLINKA DISTRICT MALKINIA THOUSANDS DEAD NOT BURIED IN SOBIBOR DISTRICT WLODAWSKI MASS GRAVES MURDER PREGNANT WOMEN STOP JEWS NAKED DRAGGED INTO DEATH CHAMBERS GESTAPO MEN ASKED PAYMENT FOR QUICKER KILLING HUNTING FUGITIVES STOP THOUSANDS DAILY VICTIMS THROUGHOUT POLAND STOP BELIEVE THE UNBELIEVABLE STOP.”1
Today is Holocaust Remembrance day. I’m not quite sure how to remember such an ‘event’ as this; an event that, realistically, I can’t even imagine. It seems like an impossible imperative, but nevertheless, this post small reflection of my effort. The genocides that have occurred since WWII encourage me to pause and ask what the world looks like today in terms of human rights abuses. And what I can do.
1‘The Problem from Hell’ Samantha Power
2 A question that ought never to have been asked: Should children starve to death to spare a cellist? Listen to the story behind this question on Voices from the Ghetto, a BBC presentation of the remarkable secret project conducted inside the Warsaw Ghetto during the World War II.
3 Forget? (a thought provoked at the end of this poem)
4 Other relevant posts here and here.
April 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) announced a partnership program entitled “Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development” or “BREAD” administered by NSF. The objective of BREAD is to support innovative basic scientific research designed to address key constraints to smallholder agriculture in the developing world. The BREAD Ideas Challenge is an opportunity for researchers in the agricultural sciences to bring attention to what they believe are the most pressing issues facing smallholder farmers in the developing world today. Not only will the prizewinning Challenge Ideas be showcased for the international community to draw attention to these important challenges: Prizewinners will also receive up to $10,000 USD each for the best ideas! Here are some examples of past awards.
Hurry, the deadline is April 30, 2013!
March 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.— John W. Tukey. Exploratory Data Analysis. 1977.
Yes, indeed, there is an immense power in the ability to visualize data. It is the ability to make the unseen, the oft missed, the too small, the too big, the too boring, the utterly disperse, and the ‘only in comparison’ appear in ways they never have before. It can excite the general public to topics otherwise confined to texts they’ll never read; and it can excite such texts to consider questions they’d otherwise never ask. Data visualization is an art, a science, a skill, and an instrument. It can be found, now, in almost every avenue of our lives: our ideas, our politics, our religion, our health care, our browsing, our sports, our music, our social networking…I certainly encourage everyone who is interested to learn more about data visualization–whether by way of design, statistics, programming, or some other route.
Of course, as with all things good, data visualizations (e.g. infographics) must not go unquestioned. They too can go the way of all bad science–leading people astray when the data, design, or computations are poor or fallaciously manipulated.
So be cautious and curious when consuming data visualizations–but also be grateful for them!
University College London’s Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis and its SpaceTimeLab joined forces to produce this impressive, interactive infographic of New York’s multilingual twitter activity (London version also available). If you like this, you may also find this Microsoft tool enviable, and this popular NYT tool (Cascade) exciting.
“Designed by the team at MIT SENSEable City Lab, Health InfoScape is a disease network that combines 7.2 million patient records from General Electric’s proprietary database in an effort to illustrate relationships between various conditions that commonly affect Americans today” (visualcomplexity.com). Visualizing otherwise disperse or siloed relationship may help lead to innovation, discovery, and cure.
Along similar lines, this interactive infographic from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation allows you to “compare how a given set of 21 cause groups affects specific age groups or regions in terms of death and disability. You can change age group or region, year, and metric to view results for absolute numbers, rates, and percentages. You also have the option to further explore each cause group and view specific diseases, injuries, or risk factors.” This institute has a smattering of other data visualizations for researchers as well. In this case, the ability to visualize inequality may assist in the obtainment of a more egalitarian future.
If you are interested in infographics too, you’ll like to follow Jer Thorp’s blog (former Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times, his TED talk is here, and an interesting article written by him about Big Data is here). You also might like datavisualization.ch, which has put together a nice list of fun data visualization tools to play around with (along with some fun datasets provided by informationisbeautiful.net)