Data visualizations can be an incredible resource for human rights defenders, but understanding what data to use, as well as when and how to use data can be an overwhelming and daunting task. As of 2014, IBM found that each day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created; that is a lot of information to sort and share. A simple online search will yield many statistics stating that humans understand and absorb information faster as visual representation than text-based. Interestingly, a 2010 study by S. Bresciani, et al found that even when accounting for cultural variances “the visual representation of information objectively increases understanding and recall.” In short, taking troves of data that human rights defenders come across in their work, both knowingly and unknowingly, and converting it into visual representations of that data, can be a powerful tool. However, used incorrectly data visualizations can be misleading and, in some instances, harmful or dangerous.
Social networking tools have revolutionized the way that social movements and human rights advocates operate. In a world where the public creates the news in real time and information is readily available in a moment’s notice, the process of communication and dissemination has been largely democratized. Individuals can magnify their voice, not only through information consumption and generation, but through active engagement and organizing. For example, activists of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong used a mesh networking tool, traditionally used at music festivals, to communicate.
Thank you for joining Daniel D’Esposito of HURIDOCS, Enrique Piracés of Benetech and the New Tactics online community for a conversation on Working Safely and Effectively with Documentation Tools held from June 9th to the 13th, 2014.
Documentation is a crucial aspect of the quest for justice, accountability and transparency. Whether our goal is to raise awareness about an issue, build a case for human rights court or commission, or collect evidence for a criminal proceeding, documenting what happened (or what is happening) is often the first step towards positive change.
The information we are collecting is sensitive by nature. It often includes information about human rights abuses such as victims' testimonies, names of perpetrators, witnesses, and locations. It may include digital evidence like video or images. How can defenders, who are not technologists, ensure that their information is secure? How can defenders reduce their own risk of harm throughout the documentation process? How can defenders make sure that they have the ability to uphold their commitment to safeguarding the information of vulnerable populations?
The Human Rights Centre at the University of Sarajevo used their resources efficiently to more effectively advance human rights work. They built a strong information system and created a central role for an information specialist or librarian. The utilization of this information system and specialist allowed other staff to better, and more productively, focus on their core programmatic missions.
Thank you for joining Grace Lile of WITNESS and the New Tactics community for this conversation on archiving. Archiving and preservation have long taken a backseat to more urgent aspects of human rights documentation and advocacy, but that is beginning to change. Human rights archives are increasingly playing a pivotal role in advocacy, restorative justice, historical memory, and struggles against impunity. At the same time, however, archivists and activists alike are grappling with the mounting challenges posed by the proliferation of digital documentation. How can we ensure that the critical documentation created today will be preserved and accessible in the future? Dialogue participants discussed the tactics and methods used by archivists to preserve human rights information.
In this dialogue, practitioners that work with human rights defenders developing security strategies discussed how human rights defenders and organizations can improve their safety and security while working in the field under oppressive conditions and under the watchful eye of states and adversaries. Specifically, the participants discussed and shared tactics, strategies and resources on how human rights defenders can create effective security protocols to protect themselves against physical threats and secure their data in the field or office.
This New Tactics dialogue titled “Geo-mapping for Human Rights” focused on the role of spatial mapping tools in working to further human rights goals. With the rise of technology, mapping tools become not only more available to practitioners that may previously have shied away from using technology, but maps also offer new possibilities for advocacy, promoting transparency around human rights issues, tracking impact of human rights efforts, and engaging the community in local issues.
The New Tactics Featured Dialogue “Information Activism: Turning Information into Action,” tackled issues of what constitutes ‘information activism,’ where do we see examples of it being used by human rights practitioners, and how can groups successfully incorporate information activism into their own advocacy?
This important online dialogue featured Documenting Violations: Choosing the Right Approach from January 27 to February 2, 2010. This dialogue featured practitioners that have developed database systems to document human rights violations, organizations on the ground documenting violations, and those that are training practitioners on how to choose the right approach and system for their documentation. We looked at options for ways to collect, store and share your human rights data safely and effectively.
Librarians and information experts hold a critical role in helping organizations research, document, collect, organize, store and use information for action. This dialogue features outstanding world experts in knowledge activism, who are knowledgeable and experienced on how information is power.