Reconfiguring News to Serve a World In Need of Omnipresence
In light of the attacks in Brussels, it's worth asking ourselves if news as we know it is flawed
Mourning 31 dead and 270 injured, Brussels has emerged as the latest gaping wound in a world gutted by nonstate assailants. Given the devastation, it becomes easy to grey out all ambient news. Especially, when that news arrives in waterfalls of text, avalanches of overproduced video segments, or a locust swarm of social media updates. Yet, it is precisely the violence perpetrated against the good people of Brussels that begs we don’t forget the hundreds of other terrorist attacks committed since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks—attacks that are visualized in real time and with dismaying clarity on AttackMap.
Built upon Google Maps/Google Earth infrastructure, AttackMap is what its name portends. Like chickenpox, the latest terrorist attacks dot the face of a muted atlas, represented by heat maps that designate the point of hostility. After logging into Facebook, a user can report an ongoing attack, dragging a marker to log where it happened and can include supporting media, links, or documentation that can aid in verification. Once verified by AttackMap, the incidents appear as truncated news tickets that point to a corresponding external source.
It’s a bare-bones approach to improved transparency and reporting, but one with astounding timing, as it comes on the heels of escalated attacks and the proliferation of news cycles Frankensteined to cover them.
Created by Macedonian Web & Mobile Developer Gorjan Jovanovski, the project came to be after his own research revealed that conventional media outlets weren’t reporting on all terrorist attacks committed. Perhaps stretched thin by falling revenues, motivated by clicks, or simply responding to a lack of coverage demand, media companies just aren’t offering comprehensive reporting to a world where sub-state strife most often besieges poor and war-torn countries.
As Jovanoski details on Product Hunt:
“Crowdsourcing information about terrorist attacks happening around the world can liberate us from the selected content media like to provide, and give a true picture of what is happening in conflict zones.”
AttackMap brings to mind another project of similar name and approach. Like it, Digital Attack Map was created by Google Ideas to provide a tool for easier deciphering of the complexities of a global system, in this case, the horde of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks committed against the websites of news organizations, brands and global charities.
On Digital Attack Map, one can sort through notable recent attacks, such as a sizable one that occurred internally in the United States the day after Christmas Day of 2013, the most active source and destination countries, and web results that allude to their activity.
Apart from providing some much-needed clarity, mapping platforms like AttackMap and Digital Attack Map serve as a window into a dynamic world unfortunately made all the more dynamic by our penchant to target one another in acts of brute force. They can also offer flashes of coordinated civility as best seen on Travic, a transit visualization client that shows a real-time (though static data-based) account of all public transport feeds across the Big Blue. Resolving to report news in ways that don’t just bolster traditional models—simply layering interactive graphics where ink and paper used to be—and that instead reframe the very concept of news and the methods in which it is delivered, could ensure we don’t run into the gaps AttackMap and Digital Attack Map have sought to fill, especially when operating within a global context.
Graphics centered around Brussels, like this Washington Post goodie, and frameworks presented by Unfiltered.news, ones built on visual signals, offer a dynamic and almost lingual-independent configuration of what constitutes as news in a world perhaps better served by a reconfiguration of it. After all, we can’t expect to move beyond (or even understand) the events that threaten to tear us apart when how we come to understand them is far from all-seeing or all-revelatory.