Cameras as Evidence: What does it mean for Ushahidians?

Deep in the mountains of Italy, Centro d’Ompio, we sat in a circle brainstorming Cameras as Evidence. What would it take to collect a good and actionable citizen report using photos or video? Lead by Chris Michael of Witness, we discussed and brainstormed. The Witness team and some of the participants have amazing experience in building human rights cases. Inspired by the beautiful setting for Info Activism Camp, we collectively pulled out all the stops to consider how we can help activists and citizen reporters create valuable and usable content for their mandates. While our session aim was not tool specific (e.g.Ushahidi), it remains very applicable for Ushahidians: our software, our community.

cameras in baskets

(Photo by Heather Leson, Venice Biennale. Art by Magdalena Campos-Pons)

3.0, Rich media content: Categories and custom forms

Some Ushahidi deployers use the power of rich media content, including video to give voice and document their projects. As we journey down the 3.0 road, we are thinking about how to improve.

The path to building 3.0 is very much considering how should categories be used and how can we make custom forms as flexible as possible. See our current discussion about the future of categories on the developers mailing list. This is a critical juncture, so you input will help us serve you better.

People are using both categories and custom forms to drive their data colletions missions. We’ve seen items that could be either a category or a custom form item. To be honest, I think that sometimes people use categories as work-around because custom forms have sometimes been buggy or are hard to use.

I will say that I am grappling with the different Ushahidi users – those who want to collect and analysis data and those who simply want to file a report. As you can imagine, this is a balance. Our community has discussed too many categories, very unclean/unclear data in the past.

If you are collecting videos and/or photos as part of an evidence-based project, here are some of the recommended data points to consider:

  • Title (useful)
  • Description
  • Location/GeoCode
  • Time and Date
  • Time point Highlights
  • Reference or corroborating information
  • License (use, consent, eg. creative commons)
  • Chain of Custody
  • visual geolocation (land marks)
  • clock, timeline, length
  • context – before and after
  • violations
  • weapons – materials
  • identification of people in footage, groups involved
  • other contextual videos
  • verbal information – context, language
  • security concerns
  • other filmakers
  • translator – references
  • timeline
  • details, serial #, clothes, id, tattoos, wounds
  • length of video
  • filmaker name and contact details
  • device details
  • surrounding scenes
  • locations of all involved
  • original video
  • bitrot – is it playable
  • posting information – all, originals, copies
  • missing clips, edited?
  • transcribed?
  • file format
  • resolution
  • frame rate
  • livestreaming?
  • who has it been sent to, who has the files, where to share and not to share
    purpose of video? – eg. change situation, document, share, influence, action
  • Unique id
  • categorization by file
  • sound quality, notes about sound (eg. guns, shouting, tone)

Alright, that list makes me contemplate: how are we going to incorporate this without scaring off reporters? How can we make video useful as part of the map mandate?

What do you think? What is missing? Do you think we should have a suggested custom form for video reports?

Some resources

Ushahidi Toolkits
Witness Toolkits

Thanks to Tactical Tech Collective for bringing us together to collaborate.

One Response to “Cameras as Evidence: What does it mean for Ushahidians?”

  1. Hi Heather:
    Can’t begin to keep up with you these days – seems like you’re everywhere at once!

    The list of data points is certainly daunting, particularly for a first time or casual post. I’m wondering which items are considered absolutely necessary and which fall into the “nice to have” category. I would suspect the majority of videos and imagery would be originating on mobile phones which would provide some relatively standard parameters.

    Perhaps a hierarchy or “layering” approach could be crafted for individuals submitting imagery that starts with a basic list of default settings, permissions, etc. Individuals could accept the default settings or click down to increasing levels of detail.

    If an individual is a “trusted source” and they are likely to use the same equipment, permissions, etc. on a consistent basis perhaps they could save their settings in the form of “preferences”. If someone is required to sign in to post a report their permissions and preferences could be tied to their post and the appropriate options presented to them.

    Obviously, this approach might dissuade someone from casually posting a report however a set of conservative (i.e. restrictive) default permissions and appropriate disclaimers for unverified material might allow individuals to post while informing those considering using the information fair warning to be careful.

    Just some thoughts.