@PeaceTechBot was developed for International Peace Day to share #peacetech articles. Written in Python, the bot reviews recent posts on Twitter and finds articles, maps conversations, and identifies key peacetech speakers on Twitter. Upon request, the bot visualizes ACLED data pulled from an API using MatPlotLib. The bot stores this information online in Google Sheets. The logo was developed using open source images and Pixlr editor. The bot runs on a Heroku free server.
It was an awesome event co-organized by International Alert and Creative Associates. Giselle Lopez and I walked away with a lot of support (not to mention 300+ hours of bro-bono consulting from the Development Solutions Organization) for our project, which we called Disrupt.
The problem we wanted to tackle is that the Islamic State is dominating the world of social media. 50,000 pro-ISIS messages go out in a variety of languages every day, but messages of peace and counternarratives are often drowned out in the spaces where vulnerable youth are exchanging ideas and can be radicalized. This is a huge challenge that eventually requires engagement on the person-to-person level, but our project starts out by tackling the challenge of amplifying moderate voices in social media at large.
Using Crimson Hexagon - a powerful social media analysis tool that is able to sift through vast amounts of social media and pull out both pro and anti-ISIS content. These streams are filtered by a human layer of analysis (sifting out duplicate or irrelevant content), and fed into the game where the player interacts with them through gameplay. In our prototype, the player contested IS messages by pummeling a block filled with real-world ISIS tweets. In the future, she might be painting over them with a group of her friends (check out the concept art below!) The player contests ISIS content through actions powered by promoting and amplifying positive narratives around the world.
Several goals for the future. The first is that we will want to design the game to incorporate social media in multiple languages. The vast majority of the conversations taking place online are not in English, and if the project is going to have impact it will need to amplify and address the Arabic voices that are the important ones in this conflict. We'll want to work with Arabic developers to make the game. And ultimately, because radicalization is a product of peer to peer networks, we'll need to find a way to bring impact from the broad world of social media to the realm of close interpersonal relations. A big challenge for gaming, but one worth dedicating ourselves to.
Games are a powerful potential tool for peacebuilders looking to change the world for good. Here's one idea of how it can happen.
I had the pleasure to talk with Marianne Perez de Fransius, Sabrina Urrutia, and Meg Villanueva about their upcoming project, the Peace Superheroes game. They're looking to use games to teach kids about how to handle scenarios like bullying or accepting diversity.