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mobile phone social networks

New tools are emerging for advocacy and social networking with text messages on mobile phones…

I just started a ten day total immersion seminar at the BAVC Producer’s Institute, a kind of high-tech think tank to develop ideas to move beyond established methods of distribution and look for ways to reach out and energize and grow our audiences through social networks, to visualize the issues through interactive mapping and gaming, and ultimately to get citizens to engage and act on the issues.

Because The Reckoning is a documentary about the global reach and effects of the International Criminal Court (ICC), I’m intrigued by the idea of making a live interactive earth map that not only shows you what the ICC is and where it operates by incorporating embedded video we’ve shot and text, but also receives news feeds and mobile phone text messages in real time.  After 2 years of filming with amazing people in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia, it’s clear that mobile phones would be the best way to keep hearing from them and share their insights into the struggle for justice and the defense of human rights. This was reinforced for me when I received a call at 3am, a few hours before the start of the BAVCPI, from Dennis Lemoyi, leader of the Pagak IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in northern Uganda and a major character in our film – he was calling me on his mobile phone, of course, and had no idea where I was in the world or what time zone I was in – but my first thought was that his call augured well for our 10-day meet.  And sure enough, by the end of the day, video compression guru Andy Beach showed us an amazing new online map, TwitterVision ( that receives live text uplinks from members of Twitter mobile phone networks, showing their location on the map.  So first day in, and one of my big questions was answered – how to maintain live contact with people on the ground in the situation countries.  Apparently we’ll be able to adjust our map so that the Twitter feed is specific to the social network we create around international justice.  So I can imagine a network made up of people like Dennis Lemoyi and other amazing voices from the field, sharing their thoughts and sending their text messages up to the map. Now we have to find a mobile phone maker or carrier to sponsor the SMS use for members of our network. 

Paco de Onís

Paco is the Executive Director and Executive Producer of Skylight, a human rights media organization dedicated to advancing social justice through storytelling by creating documentary films and media tools that can applied in long-term strategies for positive social change.

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