In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Disaster Management on August 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm
Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. Please stay tuned: Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks and the workshop summary report will be published in September.
We caught up with Will McClintock at the Connecting Grassroots for Disaster Management workshop last year to talk about the future of web-based, collaborative technologies.
McClintock, a project scientist at the University of California-Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute and a senior fellow with the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Center, spoke with us about the current technology developed for decision making, particularly geospatial technology and techniques. He says many of these interfaces are developed without consideration of non-technical decision-makers, further noting that the quickening pace of emerging technology will require faster development in the future and a new way of looking at software.
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In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Disaster Management, Foresight, News and Events on May 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm
Editor’s note: In September 2012, the Commons Lab hosted the Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management workshop. Over two days, we spoke with a number of event participants for a series of video podcasts covering various aspect of the proceedings. The conversation below with Eric Rasmussen is the first of these podcasts. Please stay tuned: Additional installments will be posted in the coming weeks and the workshop summary report will be published in June.
Eric Rasmussen wears many hats: He is a medical doctor, a research professor for environmental security and global medicine at San Diego State University, an affiliate associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, and the managing director at Infinitum Humanitarian Systems, a “profit-for-purpose” company in California that focuses on reducing vulnerability for systems and populations. In addition to sitting on a number of boards, Rasmussen served in the Navy for more than 25 years and was deployed more than 15 times to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
In this podcast, Rasmussen discusses the limitations software developers face when moving ideas from concept to implementation in disaster response, noting that developers often have too little access to end users and too little understanding of the constraints faced by those users in the field. He also discusses the need to engage agencies and other responders early on to make sure new systems are incorporated into agency response plans and the role of policymakers in addressing these challenges.
In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Disaster Management, Foresight, Technology and the Law on April 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm
During last week’s frenzied pursuit of suspects after the Boston Marathon bombings, we commented on the danger of attempting to crowdsource a criminal investigation. After Friday’s arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, new information on how law enforcement located the suspect has shed light on the process. Despite good intentions, intelligence analysis of this type is a poor fit for untrained amateurs. From the Washington Post:
[T]he social media revolution meant that the FBI and Boston authorities were under intense pressure to move even faster, because thousands of amateur sleuths were mimicking the official investigation, inspecting digital images of the crowd on Boylston Street and making their own often wildly irresponsible conclusions about who might be the bombers.
On an investigative forum of Reddit.com, since removed from the site, users compiled thousands of photos, studied them for suspicious backpacks and sent their favorite theories spinning out into the wider Internet.
“Find people carrying black bags,” wrote the Reddit forum’s unnamed moderator. “If they look suspicious, then post them. Then people will try and follow their movements using all the images.”
The moderator defended this strategy by arguing that “it’s been proven that a crowd of thousands can do things like this much quicker and better. . . . I’d take thousands of people over a select few very smart investigators any day.”
In addition to being almost universally wrong, the theories developed via social mediacomplicated the official investigation, according to law enforcement officials. Those officials said Saturday that the decision on Thursday to release photos of the two men in baseball caps was meant in part to limit the damage being done to people who were wrongly being targeted as suspects in the news media and on the Internet.
Fortunately, the suspect was apprehended and critiques of Reddit’s investigative techniques were swift and emphatic. But this could have easily gone much worse. This experience provides an example of where the wisdom of the crowd can be anything but wise.