Monday, April 14, 2008

iConflict: A Growing Concept

Using social media has helped pave the way for citizen journalists to report news to the rest of the world and shed light on human rights issues. That's why I was happy to see a site like iConflict, which enables users to connect, discuss and share news on international conflicts and crises.

Launched in March, it relies on citizen journalists to upload news stories from the mainstream media as well as their own stories, including their own images, videos and experiences. The site divides conflicts into areas, known as "hot spots," and includes Sudan, Zimbabwe, Israel and Afghanistan among others. There is also a blog reporting on different issues around the world.

What is appealing about iConflict, is the combination of journalism--specifically citizen journalism--and the focus on international crises. It's a great way to spread awareness and get a diaglogue rolling on important issues that are occurring around the world.

iConflict has a great concept but has a long way to go in making this an effective awareness tool. As of now, there are only about three or four active members posting stories, and they appear to be from the mainstream media instead of a combination of both mainstream and citizen journalism. A "thumbs-up/thumbs down" icon appears next to each story but it is unclear what the criteria is for rating stories or how other members are rating them. The site would also benefit from categorizing the "hot spots" by conflict along with by region.

But iConflict is still in its infancy given that it was launched less than a month ago and has the potential to fix all of these kinks. In a blog post about the site's launch, other features are promised in the future:

Originally produced video newscasts from our offices in New York and Washington, DC that will be syndicated on itunes and youtube, online discussion and commentary on user submitted news stories, interactive data mashups on countries in conflict, applications on external social networking sites, and other innovations

Should iConflict implement these features, it really does have the potential to become a great site for people to come together and discuss the issues in the world. What would be exciting to see is it expand on a global level with people contributing their experiences from all over. Think about the current election turmoil in both Kenya and Zimbabwe. Although news stories on these issues are uploaded onto the site, it would be much more enriching to hear reporting from citizens who are actually experiencing the events as they happen.

Even with the long way it has to go, iConflict is a great concept that if done correctly will be an asset to both journalism and human rights.

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