Reporting in Aleppo: Can data science help?

Reporting in Aleppo: Can data science help? by Nausicaa Renner. (Columbia Journalism Review)

from the post:

In war zones, reporting is hard to come by. Nowhere is this truer than in Syria, where many international journalists are banned, and more than one hundred journalists have been killed since the war began in early 2011. A deal was made on Tuesday between the Syrian government and the rebels allowing civilians and rebels to evacuate eastern Aleppo, but after years of bloody conflict, clarity is still hard to come by.

Is there a way for data science to give access to understudied war zones? A project at the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University, partly funded by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, uses what information we do have to “link eyes in the sky with algorithms and ears on the ground” in Aleppo.

The Center overlaid satellite images from 2012 to 2016 to create a map showing how Aleppo has changed: Destroyed buildings were identified by discrepancies in the images from year to year. Visualization can also put things in perspective; at a seminar the Center held, one student created a map showing how little the front lines of Aleppo have moved—a stark expression of the futility of war.

As of this AM, I saw reports that the ceasefire mentioned in this post failed.

The content is horrific but using the techniques described in The Twitterverse of Donald Trump to harvest Aleppo videos and images could preserve a record of the fall of Aleppo. Would mapping geo-locations to a map of Aleppo help document/confirm reports of atrocities?

Unlike the wall of silence around US military operations, there is a great deal of first-hand data and opportunities for analysis and confirmation. (It’s hard to analyze or confirm a press briefing document.)

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