Soul of the New Machine
Recent innovations in science and technology have provided human rights advocates, journalists, and scientists with new tools to expose war crimes and other serious violations of human rights and to disseminate this information in real time throughout the world. As part of a major research university, the Human Rights Center at University of California, Berkeley, is in a unique position to showcase these recent developments and push new frontiers of applied research.
The Soul of the New Machine, an international conference, will be held May 4 and 5, 2009, on the Berkeley campus. The conference will convene leading thinkers and practitioners to share best practices and develop new strategies for incorporating technology to address human rights abuses. It will also inspire the creation and advancement of innovative projects voters through the “Mobile Challenge,” a competition for using mobile technology in human rights investigations and advocacy.
The international conference will provide a space for leading thinkers, civil society members, activists, programmers, and entrepreneurs to imagine, discover, share, solve, connect and act together.
The conference will focus on two areas of justice and human rights work: 1) evidence gathering and documentation and 2) advocacy and outreach. Conference participants will explore how new developments in science and technology could advance these two areas. The conference will combine keynote addresses and plenary sessions with hands-on opportunities to interact with developers and users during panel discussions, workshops, and a poster session/exhibition hall. The conference will also showcase the projects resulting from the Mobile Challenge (see below).
During keynote sessions at the opening and closing of the conference, entrepreneurs and civil society leaders will share their vision for human rights investigation and advocacy in the age of technology and new media. We aim to present leaders from the human rights field as well as from high tech or new media.
Over the two-day conference, concurrent panels will be devoted to:
- “Eye in the Sky”: Geographic Information Systems, Satellite Imagery, Data Collection and Security
- In the Field: Mobile Technologies and Forensic Investigations
- Human Rights in the Spotlight: Digital Photography, Multimedia, Animation
- Human Rights On and Off the Intertnet
Technical Workshops and Group Discussions
Along with the panel discussions, participants will roll up their sleeves to tackle new challenges in targeted hands-on working groups and discussion forums. Topics will be identified by participants in advance of the conference and may include social networking, issue/event advocacy, tools for data collection in the field, and participatory databases or wikis.
Poster Sessions / Exhibit Hall
The poster sessions will provide a space for individuals to interact informally and learn from existing or proposed projects. The exhibition hall will be open to the public throughout the conference. Up to 20 NGOs, corporations, governmental agencies, academic institutions and individuals will present their work in poster sessions or online demonstrations. Exhibits will include representatives of:
- Evidence gathering and data collection
- Communication and advocacy
- Mobile Challenge projects
- Academic research
The Mobile Challenge
The Mobile Challenge will invite submissions from nonprofits and advocacy organizations to develop mobile tools that combine data, imagery, mapping and social networking to advance human rights. Mobile technology, often in conjunction with the Internet, can help expose users to a wide variety of information, accommodate dynamic information, and enrich understanding of critical issues through the juxtaposition of data, photos, video, audio or text.
We are especially keen to develop expertise in the use of mobile technology for on-the-ground reporting and documentation of human rights abuses. Mobile phones are increasingly the means of communication in the developing world, and are undergoing constant improvements in technology and capabilities (including data collection and GPS). The conference will provide impetus for their additional development—in both hardware and software applications—for the purposes of human rights and advocacy.
By sharing the highlighted projects as case studies, other organizations will gain a better sense of the possibility of the tools, while capacity builders in the field can provide training and support for the use of these technologies in the context of human rights. Online voting will be used to select ten Mobile Challenge Finalists, who will present their work in the Exhibit Hall. Up to three projects will be selected by a panel of judges to receive an award of $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000, plus in-kind technical support to develop their new projects.
The submission period for Mobile Challenge projects is February 2nd-March 20th. Visit the Mobile Challenge website to learn more about project rules and guidelines or browse the Project Gallery to see what participants have submitted so far.
Additional Events and Information
Priming the Pump: Pre-Event Interaction
We will generate interest and ideas before the physical conference through a dedicated social networking site on Ning. Attendees will have the opportunity to post questions or topics they would like to see addressed at the conference and find users who might develop solutions.
Who Should Attend?
The conference will attract a range of human rights activists, open source enthusiasts, professional developers, and new media practitioners. We will invite international participants working on new tools and best practices for human rights documentation, community organizing, and advocacy.