What is Ushahidi actually doing

Will “Liberation Technologies” change the balance of power between repressive states and civil society?

Patrick Meier from Ushahidi is probably known to many here through his lectures at re: publica and re: campaign - or through his multiple mentions on this blog.

In his now published dissertation he addresses the question of whether “Liberation Technologies” actually have the liberating, i.e. ultimately power-shifting effect that is ascribed to them. "Liberation Technologies" are developments that are assumed to have a grassroots, anti-depressive potential, such as the anti-censorship and anonymization tool Tor or the colloborative crisis visualization tool Ushahidi.

In this context the Belarusian “cyber skeptic” Evgeny Morozov should be mentioned, whose core thesis is related to

Computers store everything, and the benefit of this information gathered is for $ repressives_regime always greater than the liberating potential for the user.

summarize. He expounded this thesis in his book The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate The World, published almost a year ago.

Patrick Meier approached the question scientifically both qualitatively (structured interviews, "soft" data) as well as quantitatively (measurable facts, figures) and concentrated many of his regression analyzes on the dependent variable "number of protests" - the database for the most part comes from this the Ushahidi project. With this approach he finds indications that the presence of the Internet and mobile phones has a direct influence on the frequency of protests. The great achievement of the dissertation, however, presumably consists in developing a methodological framework for researching digital activism in repressive environments.

Here you can download the more than 200 pages as a pdf - he will try to get an ebook version. If the diss is too extensive for you, we recommend rummaging through blog articles on selected findings:

Theorizing Ushahidi: An Academic Treatise

How Egyptian Activists Kept Their Ushahidi Project Alive Under Mubarak

Analyzing Election Monitoring Reports from Egypt Using U-Shahid

ICTs, Democracy, Activism & Dictatorship: Comprehensive Literature Review

Impact of ICT on Democracy & Activism: Findings from Statistical Studies

About the author

Linus Neumann

Dipl.-Psych. Linus Neumann has been a member of the Netzpolitik editorial team for several years since 2010 and is one of the spokespersons for the Chaos Computer Club. Together with Tim Pritlove he does the weekly podcast Logbuch: Netzpolitik. He works in Berlin for an IT security company. Every now and then he tweets a little nonsense. You can reach him here by email.
Published 11/23/2011 at 3:45 PM