Monthly Archives: June 2009

FSI09: Economic Context of Nonviolent Resistance

The seventh presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict focused on the economic vulnerabilities of different authoritarian states.

There are different types of repressive states:

  • Development state
    • Developmental ideology
    • Mixed economy with interventionist state
    • Constrained but partially autonomous civil society
  • Totalitarian state
    • Development ideology
    • State ownership of means of production
    • Mobilized but non-autonomous civil society
  • Rentier state
    • Lack of development ideology
    • State as arena for private gain
    • Disorganized civil society

The pillars of regime survival include legitimacy, political support and coercion. Each of these exist at different levels in the three types of state described above. For example, in rentier states have low legitimacy, narrow political support and high coercion.

How do states generate economic revenues?

  • Direct sources
    • Taxes
    • State ownership of production
    • Rents (natural resources, foreign aid, corruption, etc)
  • Indirect sources
    • Domestic and/or foreign private investment
    • Migrant remittances

One participant noted the important role of organized crime, which is missing from the framework presented. I completely agree with this comment. We’ve seen the rise in organized crime in Mexico, Colombia, Guinea Bissau and Liberia, among other countries.

What are the implications for the social contract? What sources of income require broad, narrow and little/no domestic collaboration?

  • Broad domestic collaboration
    • Taxes
    • Competitive private investment
  • Narrow domestic collaboration
    • Political corruption
    • State owned enterprises
    • Monopolistic private investment
  • No domestic collaboration
    • Natural resource rents
    • Foreign aid
    • Migrant remittances

States rely on these types of revenues to various degrees. For example, development states are highly dependent on private investment; totalitarian states rely most heavily on state ownership; and rentier states have relatively high dependence on rents. States use these revenues to create legitimacy, build political coalitions and bolster the military, for example.

Economic factors can affect thresholds at which citizens join democratic opposition. To be sure, minor changes in individual thresholds can unleash explosive growth in public opposition. I was surprised that the notion of “information cascades” was not included in the presentation. Nor was the idea of the “dictator’s dilemma,” which I addressed in this previous post.

In any case, here’s an excerpt from a paper by Professor Dan Drezner that explains information cascades:

“An informational cascade takes place when individuals acting in conditions of uncertainty strongly condition their choices on what others have done previously.  More formally, an information cascade is a situation in which every actor, based on the observations of others, makes the same choice independent of his/her private information signal.

In repressive societies, information cascades often lead citizens to acquiesce to government coercion, even if a broad swath of the public would prefer coordinated action.  Citizen coordination and mobilization  is highly unlikely among risk-averse actors unless there is some assurance that others will behave similarly.  At the same time, however, an exogenous shock that triggers spontaneous acts of protest can also trigger a reverse in the cascade.  This explains why repressive societies often appear stable and yet without warning can face a massive scaling up of protests and civic action.

A little bit of public information can reverse a long-standing informational cascade that contributed to citizen quiescence.  Even if people may have previously chosen one action, seemingly little information can induce the same people to choose the exact opposite action in response to a slight increase in information. The spread information technology increases the fragility of information cascades that sustain the appearance of authoritarian control.”

In terms of strategies for activists:

  • Identify the regime’s points of economic vulnerability on the revenue and expenditure side;
  • Seek to lower individual thresholds by raising the costs of coercion for the regime while de-legitimizing the regime;
  • Construct appropriate strategic alliances.

How does one engage in nonviolent conflict in rentier states? How does expand the nonviolent battlefield? There are two levels of analysis here: local/national and international. However, the international component is not a replacement for activities going on at the grassroots level.

In the case of Timor-Leste‘s nonviolent action, international actors were able to help support the cause. But if the political transition turned violent, then the international community would not be able to publicly support their cause.

Another strategy is to go after multinational companies operating in repressive regimes. Exposing the complicity of their business in these countries, which regimes depend on, is one way exploit some of their existing vulnerabilities.

An interesting example, along these lines, is the Genocide Intervention Network ‘s (GIN) ranking system DarfurScores.org that grades Members of Congress on how well they’ve been addressing the genocide via legislation. This was presented last month by the head of GIN. Many congress persons got in touch with GIN to ask how they could increase their Darfur scores.

Another interesting example is Karma Bank.

Patrick Philippe Meier

FSI09: Building a Movement for Civil Resistance

The sixth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict focused on the organizational side of civil resistance by drawing on the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) experience in apartheid South Africa.

UDF

What is needed for a successful movement?

  • A vision
  • A trigger
  • Leadership
  • An organizational base
  • A strategy
  • Broad unity with a range of allies

I found the trigger factor quite interesting. In the case of the ANC, the positive trigger was the end of the Cold War. Triggers provide windows of opportunity for action. Another example is Milosevic’s decision to call for early elections, which presented Otpor with a window of opportunity. So triggers can be both external and internal.

Elements of the South Africa movement:

  • Multi-level and decentralized organizational structure
  • Leadership was replaceable
  • ‘Branding’ and public presence (e.g., posters)
  • Mobilization and spreading of tactics
  • Local flexibility and creativity
  • National strategy and direction

Organizing outside existing structures is a key feature of the resistance movements that took place in South Africa and Serbia.

One participant noted the parallels often referred to between South Africa and Israel/Palestine. Earlier in the day one presenter argued that if one million unarmed Palestinians got together to march towards Jerusalem, it would be impossible to stop them. Another participant countered and noted the 600+ check-points in the West Bank.

The “final word” by someone else in the room: “You obviously have not seen the power of one million people marching.”

Patrick Philippe Meier

FSI09: Lessons from Serbia’s Civil Resistance

The fifth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict addressed the lessons learned by the Otpor student movement in Serbia. This presentation addressed the strategies and tactics that can lead to successful civil resistance.

otpor

Unity, Planning and Nonviolent Discipline are three main principles key to nonviolent struggle. These principles have obvious parallels with military principles. Nonviolent discipline is especially critical.

You can have 100,000 people demonstrating nonviolently in the streets but as soon as one person picks up a stone and throws it at the police, this is what the media will focus on and gives the regime the “excuse” to crack down. One participant noted that in their country, the regime sends criminals to pick fights and turn nonviolent protests violent. In this case, one tactic that could help mitigate this issue is to have women be on the front lines because police is less likely to use force against them.

Here are the 10 lessons learned from Otpor’s resistance in Serbia:

  1. Taking an offensive approach. The moment you start responding to what the regime does, you are losing your momentum. Keep moving, always, just like sharks.
  2. Understanding the concept “power in numbers”. Draw on the multi-level marketing model: “Act, Recruit and Train.”
  3. Developing an Effective Communication Strategy. There are typically 4 crucial target audiences: Members and supporters; Wider audience; Potential allies within oppositional parties and NGOs; and International community.
  4. Creating a Perception of  a Successful Movement. Pick the battles you can win; know when and where to declare victories.
  5. Investing in Skills and Knowledge of Activists. This is always appreciated by your members and helps foster group cohesion.
  6. Cultivating External Support. Solicit external support early but be deliberate as to whether you make that support public or not.
  7. Inducing Security Force Defections. Security forces are a key pillar of support to the regime. Most are not interested in acting with violence; they have families they need to feed. Those who take pleasure in torture have wives or girlfriends, find out where the latter shop, put pictures of their husbands with the question: “Why is X torturing our sons?” If you have the person’s phone number, add that to the poster and add “To find out, call X at #”.
  8. Resisting Oppression. Decentralize leadership and engage in extensive training to prepare activists to avoid surprises and overcome effects of fear. Share motivating messages (e.g., to the police).
  9. Using Elections as a Trigger. These create an atmosphere of “social referendum” while creating a wide coalition among political parties and broader consensus with civil society.
  10. Enabling Peaceful Transition of Power. Key state stakeholders need to be rapidly restored after “nonviolent revolution” to demonstrate democratic dividends right away.

I’ve found the past two days of conversations at FSI 2009 thought-provoking. There are many parallels between civil resistance tactics/strategies and the study of complexity science and complex systems.

One of the key challenges of nonviolent action is to scale the number of participants in the movement. Numbers matter. So how does one influence micro-motives so that they lead to macro-behavior—or emergent behavior. One way to influence micro-level motives in complex social systems is to create incentive mechanisms.

How does one communicate and synchronize these incentives? Enter the importance of communication technology.

Patrick Philippe Meier

FSI09: Lessons from Serbia’s Civil Resistance

The fifth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict addressed the lessons learned by the Otpor student movement in Serbia. This presentation addressed the strategies and tactics that can lead to successful civil resistance.

otpor

Unity, Planning and Nonviolent Discipline are three main principles key to nonviolent struggle. These principles have obvious parallels with military principles. Nonviolent discipline is especially critical.

You can have 100,000 people demonstrating nonviolently in the streets but as soon as one person picks up a stone and throws it at the police, this is what the media will focus on and gives the regime the “excuse” to crack down. One participant noted that in their country, the regime sends criminals to pick fights and turn nonviolent protests violent. In this case, one tactic that could help mitigate this issue is to have women be on the front lines because police is less likely to use force against them.

Here are the 10 lessons learned from Otpor’s resistance in Serbia:

  1. Taking an offensive approach. The moment you start responding to what the regime does, you are losing your momentum. Keep moving, always, just like sharks.
  2. Understanding the concept “power in numbers”. Draw on the multi-level marketing model: “Act, Recruit and Train.”
  3. Developing an Effective Communication Strategy. There are typically 4 crucial target audiences: Members and supporters; Wider audience; Potential allies within oppositional parties and NGOs; and International community.
  4. Creating a Perception of  a Successful Movement. Pick the battles you can win; know when and where to declare victories.
  5. Investing in Skills and Knowledge of Activists. This is always appreciated by your members and helps foster group cohesion.
  6. Cultivating External Support. Solicit external support early but be deliberate as to whether you make that support public or not.
  7. Inducing Security Force Defections. Security forces are a key pillar of support to the regime. Most are not interested in acting with violence; they have families they need to feed. Those who take pleasure in torture have wives or girlfriends, find out where the latter shop, put pictures of their husbands with the question: “Why is X torturing our sons?” If you have the person’s phone number, add that to the poster and add “To find out, call X at #”.
  8. Resisting Oppression. Decentralize leadership and engage in extensive training to prepare activists to avoid surprises and overcome effects of fear. Share motivating messages (e.g., to the police).
  9. Using Elections as a Trigger. These create an atmosphere of “social referendum” while creating a wide coalition among political parties and broader consensus with civil society.
  10. Enabling Peaceful Transition of Power. Key state stakeholders need to be rapidly restored after “nonviolent revolution” to demonstrate democratic dividends right away.

I’ve found the past two days of conversations at FSI 2009 thought-provoking. There are many parallels between civil resistance tactics/strategies and the study of complexity science and complex systems.

One of the key challenges of nonviolent action is to scale the number of participants in the movement. Numbers matter. So how does one influence micro-motives so that they lead to macro-behavior—or emergent behavior. One way to influence micro-level motives in complex social systems is to create incentive mechanisms.

How does one communicate and synchronize these incentives? Enter the importance of communication technology.

Patrick Philippe Meier

FSI09: Failed States and Civil Resistance

My former Professor Richard Shultz gave the fourth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict 2009.

Shultz placed his presentation into context by noting that he has radically changed his syllabi and created new courses in order reflect the changing global security. While security traditionally focused on armed groups, we are now focusing increasingly on non-state armed groups and more recently on non-state non-armed groups. Furthermore, violence is a subset of force. In other words, nonviolence is another force that needs to be studied within the context of failed states and civil resistance.

Authority, according to Professor Shultz is based on two characteristics: legitimacy and coercion. He addressed these within the context of strong states and weak states on the one hand and strong societies and weak societies on the other.

There are two types of strong states: those based on strong institutions of coercion not restricted by law; versus those in which the population grants or agrees that the government needs strong institutions of coercion and extraordinary powers. Whether a society is strong or weak depends on how legitimate they view the state. This produces a framework with 4 quadrants or cells (e.g., strong state, strong society).

Not surprisingly, the framework prompted discussions on whether the notions of legitimacy, consent, coercion, etc., were really so clear cut. One participant noted that whether or not a state’s institutions of coercion or strong or weak depends on what period of history we’re interest in. Also, if coercive institutions are “weak”, that may actually be due to the fact that society was able to foster political transition. Finally, states are not monolithic, the strength of states and societies will vary substantially within a country’s territorial borders.

I had hoped that the presentation would be more linked to the topic of civil resistance. For example, how do civil resistance strategies and tactics need to change depending on which cell a state falls in? Moreover, I had hoped that the presentation would address how one might engage in civil resistance in failed states, such as Somalia.

Patrick Philippe Meier

FSI09: Strategic Planning & Tactical Choices in Civil Resistance

This was my favorite presentation yet at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict 2009. However, WordPress totally wiped my post half-way through the talk when I tried to save the draft. Grrr. Lesson learned, draft blog posts in a text editor first.

Hardy Merriman‘s excellent presentation drew from Gene Sharp‘s 198 nonviolent tactics, which he classified into three categories: Protest and Persuasion (shift perception); Noncooperation (shift behavior, particularly effective when scaled); and Nonviolent intervention (shift status quo). Tactics can be classified in other ways as well. For example, they can be categorized into intended outcomes; or into concentration and dispersion tactics.

Planning and strategizing is imperative. Many movements fail because they were poorly planned and/or sequenced. In addition, brave actions that get media attention but result in the activist’s arrest are not advised. Tactical innovation is critical such as alternative leadership. This means adapting and keeping the asymmetric advantage.

An interesting conversation ensued regarding the process of defining strategy, operations and tactics in a nonviolent movement.  Unlike the hierarchical, top-down process in the military, resistance movements need to front load the conversation on strategy, to set up a planning committee and de-federalize the decision-making process vis-a-vis operations and tactics. Indeed, these decisions need to be made locally to tap into local knowledge and know-how.

How does one evaluate civil resistance movements? Assess whether tactics advance operational goals and whether the latter converge towards the established strategy. The best case scenario is to devise a series of tactics that don’t appear to be coherent by the adversary but ultimately come together to accomplish the movement’s operational goals and strategy.

The use of technology was also addressed. How does new technology help a civil resistance movement? Does it make tactical decisions easier or more difficult? One participant noted that sometimes one cannot not use these technologies, particularly in countries where physical assembly is illegal.

Another participant cautioned that tactical autonomy is potentially restricted with instant communication between activists engaged in street action and those coordinating the action. He noted a case he was involved in several years ago when he and colleagues took over a police station and secured the police radio equipment. Police officers in the streets who tried to radio for instructions were unable to and were not sure what to do.

One participant also mentioned that activists can use government surveillance to their advantage by spreading misinformation.

The topic of young people came up as well in the context of technology. Young people are often more tech savvy than adults and also early adapters of technology. One participant thus opined that the side with the young people is likely to win over the side without young people.

Another participant referred to the popular book “The Starfish and the Spider” to contrast the organizational structure of repressive regimes versus resistance movements. I’ve got some good notes on this book, so do email me if you’d like a copy of my notes. I’m glad that this book came up as it delves into one of my other passions, the study of complexity science and complex systems.

Patrick Philippe Meier

FSI09: Geopolitical Constraints vs Opportunities in Civil Resistance

This is the second presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict 2009. The presentation focuses on “The Geopolitical Constraints and Opportunities for Civil Resistance.” Note that you can also follow #FSI09 on Twitter.

The thesis of this talk is that changes in geopolitical forces accelerate the frequency of nonviolent conflict. (My question is whether this claim is even falsifiable?).

The use of nonviolent strategies is ascendant and nonviolent movements are influenced by geopolitical forces. Geopolitics describes international politics in geographic terms, i.e., “the term has applied primarily to the impact of geography on politics.”

The weakened role of the state in international politics may in part explain the rise of civil resistance. (Note that I disagree with the argument that states are less significant actors). Fundamental trends in communication technologies and the global media may also explain this rise. In addition, the notion of “soft power” is in line with the strategies and tactics employed in resistance movements.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for me vis-a-vis the rise of nonviolent resistance is the promotion of democracy via global institutions and norms; the focus on democratic peace theory and civil society networks. That said, I’m still not sure how drawing on geopolitics as a framework to situate and explain civil resistance adds to our understanding of nonviolent conflict.

Moreover, as one participant noted, shouldn’t we frame the question as follows: how do social movements influence geopolitics, rather than vice versa?

In any case, I’m glad to note that much of the conversation generated by the presentation focused on the impact of communication technology on geopolitics while keeping a healthy dose of skepticism. One participant made a comment that I make all the time; namely that networks of activists are more likely to learn and adapt to changes in technology than centralized, hierarchical regimes are.

Somewhat surprisingly, the concept of the dictator’s dilemma was overlooked.

The dictator’s dilemma suggests that globalization has produced a lucrative global information economy that repressive regimes are interested in exploiting. However, as they gear the domestic economy to take advantage of the information economy, they give up some control on how technology is used within their borders.

One final note, I think there is an evolutionary dynamic at play, just like there is with warfare. We describe Al Qaeda’s approach as fourth generation warfare, i.e., decentralized tactics, since this give the group an asymmetric advantage over a more centrlaized military power such as the US.

In other words, Al Qaeda’s approach make logical sense. In this same way, perhaps more movements recognize that nonviolent civil resistance is indeed a Force More Powerful.

Patrick Philippe Meier

FIS09: Introduction to Civil Resistance

My notes on the opening presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict 2009. You can also follow #FSI09 on Twitter.

Using the term “nonviolence” is often unhelpful and counterproductive. The term denotes an ethical stance that opens up all kinds of philosophical debates. Instead of using this adjective, we should use the verb “civil resistance” which denotes the use of highly disruptive actions by the many against the few.

Some quotes

“Power concedes nothing and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them,  and these will continue until they are resisted.” – Frederick Douglass

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having hte power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.” – Abrahm Lincon

Leo Tolstoy predicted that “public opinion” would change the “whole structure of life” making violence “superfluous”.

“England can hold India only by consent. We can’t rule it by the sword.” – Sir Charles Innes

“The sudden dramatic breakdown of power that ushers in  revolutions reveals in a flash how civil obedience-to laws, to rulers, to institutions – is but the outward manifestation of support and consent.” – Hannah Arendt

Gandhi was not shy about using direct analogies to violent conflict, he referred to “nonviolent weapons” such as active interference, protests and resignations. Gene Sharp added the following categories: Protest/Persuasion; Noncooperation; Intervention.

Depriving the oppressor of consent reduces his legitimacy. The refusal to cooperate increases the costs of holding control. The legitimacy of the system drops while costs of maintaining the status quo increases, which prompts enforcers of the system to doubt its endurance (and possibly switch sides).

Nonviolent force was a key factor in 50 of the 67 political transitions between 1970-2005. However, there have been failures in nonviolent action, the most spectacular of which was Tienanmen. Nonviolent action often fails when it has not been planned.

Emergent properties of civil resistance

The following are key emergent properties that each activist should understand and practice.

  • Consent
    • Confers legitimacy
    • Recasts the idea of power
    • Creates space to resist.
  • Reason
    • Respect the citizen’s mind
    • Stimulates creative thinking
    • Persuasion, not coercion
    • Signals honestly, credibility
    • Instills “reason to believe”.
  • Self-Rule
    • Swaraj (ruling yourself)
    • “Constructive work”
    • Self-organization
    • Planning
    • Nonviolent discipline.
  • Representation
    • Acertaining and presenting people’s grievances
    • Listening, delegating and inviting participation
    • Humility, not hierarchy
    • Solidarity of all, not heroism of the few.
  • Resilience
    • Tactical mobilization, strategic sustainability
    • Momentum-driving action
    • Existential stakes: identifying with the cause
    • Certitude of faith in eventual success.
  • Force
    • Strategic/tactical skills
    • Target foe’s capacities
    • Disperse initiative
    • Divide loyalty structure
  • Transformation
    • No monolithic enemies
    • From destruction to debate
    • Justice only by rule of law
    • Everyone as stakeholder
    • Ends reflected in means

There are still those who argue for political violence. These arguments boil down to two points:

  • Necessary as a means to an end. “Oppression cannot be demolished except in a hail of bullets.” Bin Laden
  • Virtuous, as redemption or apotheosis. “Death is truth.” Bin Laden

Proponents of violence always have to find ways to justify death. But death is simply not popular. Nevertheless, there is a market for terror. However, a new study of 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns, 1900 to 2006: violence campaigns succeeded in 26% of cases; Nonviolent campaigns succeeded in 53% of cases.

Questions & Answers

One participant from a repressive country emphasized how important it is to make friends with the security forces, they are not the real enemy, they are simply following orders. If you prevent them from following orders, they get into trouble. So let them know you understand that and simply ask that they do not hit, push, beat as hard as they can. On the contrary, ask them to beat lightly and even pretend.

Nonviolent tactics are also being adopted by groups that do not seek to advance democratic principles and human rights. Does this pose a problem for the future of nonviolent action if repressive regimes begin using nonviolent tactics to repress? Not necessarily since a  repressive regime would not be able to scale these tactics. For these tactics to have impact, they must be viewed by the majority as legitimate and necessary.

In a case like Gaza, how does one increase the appeal of nonviolent action when everyone is armed? The mainstream media and citizen journalists can change the frame of the “logic” of violence. In my opinion, we need more gendered analysis of armed violence. Clearly, the concepts of masculinity and violence are closely tied. Perhaps nonviolence is perceived as more feminine? How do we change this?

A participant emphasized the need to equate civil resistance as guerrilla warfare without the violence. In other words, military discipline is integral to the success of nonviolent action.

One participant countered the argument that violence is attractive. People often turn to violence because they’ve witnessed violence, because they are driven by vengeance. However, fear also drives fear and paralysis. I would add a cost-benefit angle to this. Some groups in the Sudan have turned to organized violence because their options vis-a-vis other livelihoods have virtually vanished, in part because of the ecological crisis.

Patrick Philippe Meier

Is Crime Mapping the Future of Crisis Mapping?

My new fascination is crime mapping.

The field of crisis mapping may still in its infancy, but crime mapping, relatively speaking, is a mature science. I have no doubt that many of the best practices, methods and software platforms developed for crime mapping are applicable to crisis mapping. This is why I plan to spend the next few months trying to get up to speed on crime mapping. If you’re interested in learning more about crime mapping, here’s how I’m getting up to speed.

First, I’m following the CrimeReports blog and Twitter feed.

Second, I got in touch with Professor Timothy Hart who is co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Crime Mapping for some guidance. He suggested that a good place to start is with the primary criminology theory, from which many of the ideas found in the field of crime mapping grew.

To this end, Tim kindly recommended the following book:

In terms of the applied side of crime mapping, Tim recommended this book to gain a better understanding of theory in practice:

Third, I’ve registered to attend the 10th Crime Mapping Research Conference being held in New Orleans this August. And to think that I’m just co-organizing the first International Conference on Crisis Mapping, ICCM 2009. Yes, we’re 10 years behind. Just have a look at a sample of the presentations lined up:

  • The Spatial Dependency of Crime Dispersion.
  • A Time Geographic Approach to Crime Mapping.
  • Space-time Hotspots and their Prediction Accuracy.
  • Using Cluster Analysis to Identify Gang Mobility Patterns.
  • Defining Hotspots: Adding an Explanatory Power to Hotspot Mapping.
  • Application of Spatial Scan Statistic Methods to Crime Hot Spot Analysis.
  • Applying Key Spatial Theories to Understand Maps and Preventing Crime.
  • Using a Spatial Video to Capture Dynamically Changing Crime Geographies.

Fourth, I’m keeping track of news articles that refer to crime mapping, like the Wall Street Journal’s recent piece entitled “New Program Put Crime Stats on the Map.” According to the article,

Police say they use the sites to help change citizens’ behavior toward crime and encourage dialogue with communities so that more people might offer tips or leads. Some of the sites have crime-report blogs that examine activity in different locales. They also allow residents to offer tips and report crimes under way.

Is crime mapping the future of crisis mapping? Regardless of the answer, we have a lot to learn from our colleagues in the field of crime mapping as I plan to demonstrate in future blog posts. In the meantime, I hope that donors in the humanitarian and human rights communities realize that tremendous potential of crisis mapping given the value of added of maps for crime analysis.

Patrick Philippe Meier

GeoTime: Crisis Mapping Analysis in 3D

I just came across GeoTime, a very neat GIS platform for network analyis in time and space. GeoTime is developed by a company called Oculus and does a great job in presenting an appealing 3D visual interface for the temporal analysis of geo-referenced data. The platform integrates timeline comparisons, chart statistics and network analysis tools to support decision making. GeoTime also includes plug-ins for Excel and ArcGIS.

GeoTime

GeoTime includes a number of important functionalities including:

  • Movement trails: to display the history and behavior as paths in space-time;
  • Animation: to play back sequences and see how events unfold. Both the direction and speed of the animation can be adjusted.
  • Pattern recognition: to automatically identify key behaviors.
  • Annotate and Sketch: to add notes directly in the scene and save views as reports.
  • Fast Maps: to automatically adjust level of detail.
  • Interactive Chain and Network Analysis: to identify related events.

GeoTime2

Below is an excerpt of a video demo of GeoTime which is well worth watching to get a sense of how these functionalities come into play:

The demo above uses hurricane data to highlight GeoTime’s integrated functionalities. But the application can be used to analyze a wide range of data such as crime incidents to identify patterns in space and time. A demo for that is avaiable here.

GeoTime3

My interest in GeoTime stems from it’s potential application to analyzing conflict datasets. Problem is, the platform will set you back a cool $3,925. They do have a university rate of $1,675 but what’s missing is a rate for humanitarian NGOs or even a limited trial version.

Patrick Philippe Meier