Crisis Camping

by Sally Applin

Preface: Before I write anything further–I want to acknowledge and appreciate that all help in a crisis is valuable (virtual and bodily) and that my thoughts are with those who are currently suffering in Haiti.

The earthquake in Haiti has had a tragic impact on that country and its inhabitants. For those in other countries, there has been a desire to help. Millions of dollars have been raised from generous individuals and organizations to help the Haitian recover effort.

That said, there has also been an interesting development of others wanting to help–those in the technology community.

“Crisis Camp” is the name given to a group of technology types (programmers, software engineers and architects, UI designers, geographers, data miners and other such types) who gather in meeting spots in different cities, for a full day/night to work on the “data crisis” for Haiti.

On the surface, it may seem unnecessary: the people of Haiti need medical assistance, food and water, how can people in a room on computers help them?

The Silicon Valley Crisis Camp had a charter of the following:

Project Proposals for CrisisCamp Haiti
Base layer map for Port Au Prince: This project would create a new collection of imagery and a new base map for NGOs and relief agencies. Post available imagery to share with the public for open source applications.
Family locator systems: Uniting efforts of interested technologists, developers and communications experts to provide technical assistance.
Tech Volunteer Skill Matrix/Volunteers: Create a role of volunteer as well as
Managing News Aggregator: Provide content channel management to coordinate data feeds
Defining the Collective: Create what we are and why we are doing this. Coordinate and post historical timeline/archive for the CrisisCamp efforts.

In a way, this is terrific. It addresses needs that the infrastructure needs to become more efficient and to communicate more clearly in a crisis. It also assists with helping those on the ground (and the big assumption is that there is power, internet, cell towers and all else there) find and aid others. It helps family members outside of Haiti connect with the rescue effort and to potentially locate their loved ones.

Another great thing about the Crisis Camps is that they are being passed around different locations. The first one was in DC, then Silicon Valley, now Portand and other cities. In this way, as one group gets fatigued, the other can build on what was done before and continue.

The trend that is interesting to me here is the new way of helping. The Crisis Campers are people who are talented and have resources to give in what they do and like other types of dontation collection–its all happening remotely.

The people in Haiti seriously need: doctors, blood, blankets, medical supplies, water, food, shelter–the physical things that sustain human life.

The Crisis Campers are donating time, expertise and mental effort, but are almost cyborg in what they are doing. The Crisis Camps aren’t collecting supplies for the Red Cross, nor even blood. They are connecting by brain, and their bodies work with the machine to solve the problems. They are safely and remotely working very hard, but completely detached from the body: theirs and those in Haiti.

I find I’m in a conflict about it: on the one hand, all help is valuable. On the other, shouldn’t the Crisis Campers be donating blood, blankets, spare clothing, etc, as well?

Summary:

Crisis Camping: no tents, no bugs, no dirt, no blood, no blankets, no medical supplies

Crisis Camping: plugging the data holes that are problems in a crisis and helping to facilitate communication during a crisis.

Trend: Hard to put my finger on. I’d say its helping while remaining detached from the body.

Its the new kind of help in a new kind of merged world.

©2010-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

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