Making Sense of Syria

a conference with Special Project Office (2014)

In March 2014, Special Project Office organized Making Sense of Syria 2014, a conference and workshop on data collection, data analysis, and conflict, centered around the Syrian conflict, hosted by the interaction design program at the School for Visual Arts. For two weekends stretched across three weeks, a few dozen experts and students from diverse organizations participated in a conversation and design charrette. Among others, the questions and priorities of the conference included

  • the ways in which social media, big data, and technologically enabled networks affect the the nature of twenty-first-century conflict
  • the ways in which these effects are manifest in the Syrian conflict specifically
  • the uses and merits of certain data sets, platforms, and analyses specifically

As a starting point for discussion, the conference focused on four-month period (October 2013-January 2014) in Aleppo as a case study.

At the start of the conference, Leah presented recent work on the utility and applicability of GDELT in understanding the globalized context of local conflict (selected excerpts from the presentation above). During the workshop, Leah also contributed analysis of datasets gathered by conference participants. Excerpts of an analysis of geotagged, user-generated videos from the case study period are also featured above.

For the GDELT analysis: Special thanks are owed to Kubi Ackerman and Jason Knobloch for their help.