A couple of weeks ago I presented at Re:Publica, the largest social media conference in Germany. Since the conference gives a generous 50 minutes to its speakers I had the opportunity not only to talk about WITNESS and our work in general (first 10 minutes or so), but also to explain in some depth the video advocacy challenges and opportunities surfaced by events in the Middle East and North Africa as well as some of the emerging questions in our Cameras Everywhere initiative. Namely, how do human rights values and practicalities intersect in the new ubiquitous video moment?
As you’ll see at some point in the video, Re:Publica takes place in the Friedrichstadtpalast, a enormous revue theatre in Berlin… hopefully I didn’t gulp too much as I step up to the podium.
In case you don’t get through the entire video, below is a summary of the presentation:
In the recent political crises in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East – and before that in Iran and Burma – citizen video played a central role in mobilizing people within the country, informing the world about the situation, and feeding mainstream media’s need for on-the-ground stories. There is a blurring of boundaries between the professional human rights defender, the citizen activist, and the journalist; all are documenting human rights violations – and they are also aggregating, shaping, re-mixing and sharing the content of the others.
A world of ubiquitous video raises new opportunities to reveal compelling evidence and stories, challenge government propaganda, and galvanize local and international publics. It also raises challenges: how to protect visual anonymity, privacy and the safety of witnesses, survivors and human rights defenders, how to determine the context and authenticity of videos, and how to effectively turn visual evidence into real change. And – as video becomes the sine qua non of movements for change how do we ensure that those struggles that are less visible, or less photogenic, are not forgotten?
This talk highlights key principles of effective video for advocacy, emerging challenges and opportunities, and concrete next steps that technology providers, human rights organizations and social media communities can take to make the power of video-for-change safe, ethical and effective.
After the presentation I did this interview with DCTP TV on the themes in the talk: why strategy and audience-identification become even more important in an era of information overload and yet where some places still remain largely off the information map; tensions around consent and anonymity; the emerging question of visual privacy; and how we tap into the power of Little Brother/Little Sister.
Other speakers at Re:Publica I strongly recommend you check out:
– Noha Atef on ‘Egyptian Social Media Stories: Revolting in the Time of New Media‘
– Gabriella Coleman on ‘Geek Politics and Anonymous: From the Offensive Internet to Human Rights Activism‘
– Jillian York on ‘Policing Content in the Quasi-Public Sphere‘
– Patrick Meier on ‘Changing the World, One Map at a Time‘
Look for a series of blogs in June and July based on the recommendations I mention at the end of the presentation on how to to address key challenges and opportunities for video advocacy. Those recommendations and more are part of our forthcoming Cameras Everywhere Initiative scoping report.