About a week ago WITNESS participated in it’s first “hack day ” at the 2010 Open Video Conference here in New York.  Several hours (and pizzas) later, we came up with this:

Nathan Freitas of the Guardian Project used the built in facial recognition libraries in the Android platform to build a prototype of the sort of mobile video tools we’d like to help make.

The hack day was the culmination of several days of open video related conferences starting with the Open Subtitles Design Summit which gathered representatives from the major web browsers, web standards organizations, filmmakers, social change media makers, and members of the visually and hearing impaired communities to discuss the need to make video and all content more accessible through the standardization of extensible meta data in the in HTML5 specification.  In other words, being able to attach information like subtitles and descriptive information to web video in an easy-to-use and flexible way.  I met a great group of really smart people including many of the participants in the hack day.

The Open Subtitles Summit led into the Open Video Conference which included panels on remix culture, open video platforms, archives, and a panel on human rights video called “Cameras Everywhere: Human Rights and Web Video” which featured, Nathan, Gabriella Coleman of NYU, and Mehdi Saharkhiz an Iranian video activist who’s YouTube channel is one of the main sources of human rights video from Iran.  The panel was led and moderated by WITNESS’ own Sam Gregory and covered the potential dangers and ethical concerns of using video in human rights work as well as possible solutions.

Keeping the momentum going, we continued the discussion in a workshop called “Building Solutions for Human Rights Video” whose participants included:

Sam Gregory — WITNESS
Bryan Nunez (me) — WITNESS
Nathan Freitas — The Guardian Project
John Hodgins — IsumaTV
Joanne Teoh — journalist, video advocate
Liz Hodes — Digital Democracy
Andrew Lowenthal — Engage Media/Transmission.cc

The title was perhaps a bit optimistic as we had a lot to cover, and only one hour to do it.  We did manage to come up with three major areas to cover in our hack day: 1) Safety and Security 2) Distribution (including low/no bandwidth) 3) Data Driven Storytelling.

With the ideas from the workshop, Sam, Nathan, and I showed up at ITP the next morning and started hacking*.

Whiteboard Brainstorming

*Technically Nathan is the only one of us who can really hack…  We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s a promising start.  If you’d like to help, let us know!

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