Friday, October 12, 2012

Extreme Citizen Science in the Congo Basin

Jerome Lewis began working with Pygmy hunter-gatherers and former hunter-gatherers in Rwanda in 1993. This led to work on the impact of the genocide on Rwanda's Twa Pygmies. Since 1994 he has worked with Mbendjele Pygmies in Congo-Brazzaville researching child socialisation, play and religion; egalitarian politics and gender relations; and language, music and dance. Studying the impact of global forces on many Pygmy groups across the Congo Basin has led to research into discrimination, economic and legal marginalisation, human rights abuses, and to applied research supporting conservation efforts by forest people and supporting them to better represent themselves to outsiders.

Talk: Extreme Citizen Science in the Congo Basin

The talk describes the unusual collaboration between Pygmy hunter-gatherers and UCL's Departments of Anthropology, Engineering and Computer Science. Though many Pygmy hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin are unable to read the numbers on banknotes or write their own names they have begun to use handheld computers and hacked smart phones with software that they have developed collaboratively with UCL staff and students in the Extreme Citizen Science Research Group. Participating hunter-gatherers can now geo-tag key resources that they do not want to be damaged by industrialists, monitor logging activities that take place in their forest areas, and identify commercial poaching activities that damage wildlife and their ability to lead a secure hunter-gatherer life. By bringing together these different perspectives, exciting new technologies are emerging that can efficiently communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers to give a voice to normally marginalised people.

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