Egypt: The Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced

Slate's Culture Blog
March 3 2011 1:27 PM

Egypt: The Revolution Will Be Crowdsourced

For nearly three weeks, Egyptians documented theirrevolution through tweets, texts, photos, and thousands of hours of video. Asthe country eases into its new freedom, this content remains scattered acrossthe Internet. "People in Egypt have to find jobs and move on to the next partof the movement," says Jigar Mehta. So he's decided to take on the challenge ofcollecting those fragments himself.

Mehta, a Knight Fellow at Stanford and former New York Times video journalist, iscurating this leftover mass of amateur media into an interactive documentaryproject, 18daysinEgypt . "We want touse the same tools to tell the story as the story was told to us," he says.


The project calls on people around the world to tag mediafrom Egypt by its date, place and type. The documentary itself will evolve asfootage flows in over the coming months. Mehta and his team are mulling severaldifferent formats for the final product, including an interactive feature likeArcade Fire's " Wilderness Downtown ," which would allow users to view anymoment of the 18-day revolution.

By developing the feature over time, the team hopes toclosely engage both the content producers and viewers in the ongoingstorytelling process.

This success of this crowdsourced project will be contingenton both good design and robust citizen participation. A few months ago, the Website One Day on Earth published videos taken around the world on Oct. 10, 2010. When that sitelaunched, I sat and watched clips for hours—partly out of pure curiosity about thesepeople in other countries, but partly because the site itself was so cannilycrafted. The designers had collected hundreds of videos and made each oneclickable on a Google map. The choose-your-own-adventure nature of the layoutwas perfect for this kind of project, because it made it easy to discoverrandom, compelling videos—like this Swedishone about elk footprints—which made me, as a viewer, feel invested in the endeavor.At the same time, a helpful "Staff Likes" feature allowed me to navigatedirectly to the best stuff. The innovative design, however, would have beenuseless without rich content, as a bare map with a few errant clips would havemade the whole project seem pathetic.

If 18daysinEgypt can hit that sweet spot where design andcontent merge, it'll be a success. Having watched the sometimes shocking clips that have already surfaced out of Cairo, I, for one, am eager to see morefootage from the revolution. Here's hoping Mehta and his team find the rightway to present it to us.

Photograph by Chris Hondros/Getty Images .

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Krishnan Vasudevan is a regular video contributor to Slate. Follow him on Twitter.


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