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The Rise of Maptivism: Cairo

February 23, 2011

Following on from yesterdays post about Maptivism, we’re looking at another post on the iRevolution blog, this time looking at Check Ins. If you are a programmer then Check In means one thing (putting code into a repository) but most other people encounter ‘Checking In’ when travelling. However location-based social media systems have adapted the term to refer to confirming your location at a location. However this idea can have a use beyond a bit of fun – it can be used for protest:

Services like Foursquare provide a location-based mobile social networking platform that allows users to check-in at different venues to earn points and connect with friends. CI will work in a similar way but will allow users to create their very own “Foursquares”. This means that CI’s can be project- or group-specific, i.e., bounded to certain networks. Users will decide themselves where and what kind of points and badges to award to members of their CI network.

This quick check-in service has obvious applications for students coordinating nonviolent protests, especially when they need to rapidly adapt to a changing situation. I this saw again recently in Egypt when pro-Mubarak thugs were swarming certain avenues of downtown Cairo. I recall seeing a picture shared on Twitter with tactical drawings suggesting where anti-Mubarak protestors should position themselves as a result. This was drawn on a screenshot taken from satellite imagery of an area in the center of Cairo….

But the author goes further – talking about how the system could be even better adapted for this purpose:

With Internet and cell phone networks back up, protesters could use a check-in service to let others know where the thugs are being sighted and to recommend different locations to retreat or advance to. This would be a like a geo-tagged status update that could also be shared on your Facebook page or Twitter feed (minding the security implications). In addition, one could have pre-designated tags like “Thugs here”, “Don’t go here”, “Evacuate” etc., to avoid having to type when checking in. Call it the Q-CI feature, quick check-in’s.

These alerts or status updates could then be embedded geographically, something like geo-caching. So if I happen to check in within a hundred meters of someone who just recently updated their CI status as “evacuate”, I would get an immediate pop-up message showing me these nearby updates. Someone helping to coordinate the protests remotely from a laptop could quickly embedareas (rather than points) as  no-go zones if one or more updates show up with the tag “evacuate” at a given venue. Integrating Ushahidi’s new geometry mapping feature would make this possible. …

(Also posted on the p2p foundation blog.)

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