social media streams

Looted Heritage

Earlier today, I mentioned that one of the nice things about digital work was that, well, I could timeshift as necessary. So now, with kids in bed, and a quiet moment, I return to another project of mine that I’ve been working on since January – Looted Heritage.

This isn’t funded, or part of anything larger – just one guy and some students, as time and energy allow. I started this project partly as an exercise in some of my classes, but partly out of an interest in the shady side of the interest in the human past – the market for illicit antiquities. By some counts, it’s the third largest black market out there, after drugs and guns. With Looted Heritage, we use the Ushahidi platform to grab and monitor tweets, blogs, news aggregators, and various social media streams for notices of looting, cultural heritage vandalism, or other items of interest. We turn these into reports, and pin them to the map. Periodically, we download all of this information (and you can too!) and mine this data for trends in this market.  There’s an ios and android app available too, so if one happened across a field where tombaroli were active, you could snap a pic and send it to us.

We’ve already written up our results from the first quarter of 2012 here; our data is all there too if you’d like to explore it. If you’d like to keep an eye out for anything happening in the illicit antiquities market, it’d be great if you could submit reports on Looted Heritage. They say ‘many eyes make for better code’; many eyes can also help bring the illicit trade into the light.

You should also take a look at WikiLoot and Loot Busters, who are working with more of the primary materials related to this trade. Me, as a digital guy, well I’m sifting the dirt of social media…