Data explosion—or—How techies build peace

powerpoint-slideThe Preventionista offered a great recap of the Build Peace Conference a few weeks ago. Instead of rehashing her rehash, I want to share some nuggets of wisdom that I learned from a room full of really smart techies harnessing their abilities for the greater good of this planet.

First off, they set the tone for this conference and the conversations that would happen there with a simple challenge:

“Be tough on ideas, but gentle on people.”

These are truly words to live by. If we can all find a way to constructively and collaboratively discuss our ideas, differences, and build stronger perspectives overall, we can all be better for it.

A particularly interesting concept that I think could easily be used in prevention evaluation efforts was “Crowdseeding.” Instead of trying to get information from every member of a population or using a traditional sampling method, folks in war-torn countries ignited the room by talking about their alternative approach. They randomly choose members of a community, give them the technology they need in order to communicate with the researchers, teach them the kinds of information that will help with peacekeeping efforts, and then just ask them to share it through their technology whenever something comes up. I could definitely see a use for this in trying to get a national understanding of the challenges and successes that preventionists face, or taking a pulse of community responses to sexual violence after a major incident. The cost seems minimal, and the returns invaluable.

data-point-powerpoint-slideFinally, the title track for this post, and a concept I definitely want to learn more about is data polarization. Taking a look at social media data from Twitter, a researcher from New York plotted the networks of tweets and retweets for different issues and topics based on political affiliation. They’re finding that, big surprise, people with similar leanings talk to and listen to eachother. Unfortunately, the groups rarely intersect. This could mean that using social media for outreach or community education might simply be “tweeting to the choir.” This is definitely a concept worth considering, and should be examined in planning social media strategies.

I’d just love to talk more about all of this, and the implications of these ideas and many more on anti-sexual violence work. If you’re interested in using technology for sexual violence prevention, drop me a line in the comments here or through


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