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Fata Morgana
2007-04-10 16:19
how to visualize a genocide
activism, genocide, google, npr, photography, politics
I don't have time to expound on the implications of this as I would like to just now, but I heard on NPR's The World earlier today about a new addition to Google Earth: high-resolution images of burned villages and refugee camps in Darfur. Those involved hope that the imagery will function as a call to action to stop the genocide. Another fascinating use of photos as unquestionable "evidence," of the surveilling power of photographs, and of the (hoped-for) power of photos to make events more real and immediate.


Selected quotes:

It's hard to picture a genocide ... Officials at Google and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum hope that visualizing events in Darfur in specific detail will move people to act. ... We want ... perpetrators to understand that they are being watched. ... Knowing about a genocide has not been enough in the past to stop it. The question is whether seeing it -- especially in this large-scale, high-tech way -- will help make the difference.

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2007-04-11 03:12 (UTC)
A relevant quote
I can't get involved! I've got work to do! It's not that I like
the ------. I hate it! But there's nothing I can do about it right
now. It's such a long way from here.
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Fata Morgana
2007-04-11 05:29 (UTC)
Re: A relevant quote
That's your uncle talking!
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2007-04-11 11:49 (UTC)
Re: A relevant quote
To "unpack" that, as my English teacher might say, I think the problem is one that occurs really often in our world. Lots of crummy stuff happens, but it usually happens out of our sight, and even when we know about it, it seems distant.

Even when we do know about it and want to help, we feel there's anything we can do. Oh, you can send money to Doctors without Borders, but why not to Unicef? Why not to Amnesty International? You can write your politician about the genocide in Dafur (preferably on heavy paper), but it'd take a lot of letters to tip the scales (I believe they literally weigh the letters) to get any action. Even if you did take action in Dafur, is that really the most pressing or the only pressing need?

People are, in other words, both distant from most of the ugliness of this world, and trapped, feeling unable to address the ugliness.

That's why you have initiatives in CA against eating horse meat and not against genocide in Dafur.

I think part of the reason Star Wars was so popular is that it took a someone who was (seemingly) powerless and showed that he could make a difference and fight the the grand machine that tries to crush each individual into irrelevance.
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Fata Morgana
2007-04-11 17:57 (UTC)
Re: A relevant quote
I agree completely. What I found most interesting was their hope that photographs in particular would make the situation more "real." It seems that though they're exerting pressure on an individual level (through Google Earth), they want action on a governmental level or by the UN. I don't know how that will play out. Getting media darling Google signed on is a good first step, I suppose.

Ah yes, there are SO many pop culture myths tied up in Star Wars. Applicable anywhere and everywhere. ;~)
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