So 2013 is off to a roaring start. I just relocated to a new place in the Petworth neighborhood in D.C. and learned that all the staff I worked with at the U.S. Institute of Peace back in the day all live within 5 blocks of me. But the big things on the horizon are my trip to Kenya that starts in a week, and TC109: Conflict Management and Peacebuilding the course I teach with TechChange.
Next weekend I leave for Nairobi where I’ll be meeting up with my colleague Elizabeth Stones, a fellow doctoral student at University College London. We have been researching how people use their mobile phones during disasters and violence, and this trip will be a chance to do initial field work to test survey instruments and gather baseline data to help inform assumptions about cell phone use that will be used in an agent-based model of SMS text message flows during crises. The last time I was in Kenya was the summer of 2011 when I was running a training program in Kisumu with Jordan Hosmer-Henner for TechChange, so I’m excited to go back! It’s going to be extra cool because we’ve been asked to present our research at the Midwest Political Science Association annual conference in Chicago in April.
I’ll also be running TC109: Technology for Conflict Management and Peacebuilding again this spring. This course went really well this past August, so I’m excited to teach it again. We will be covering both the technology that is available, including mobile phones, open maps like the Ushahidi platform, social media, and higher tech such as drones and satellite technology. We’ll have technical experts giving live talks on best practices and the pros and cons of different tools in different settings. But since conflict management and peacebuilding also comes with political and social challenges, the couse will also look at the political and economic issues associated with using these tools, as well as security risks and cultural factors that people need to take into account when doing program design. I encourage everyone to give the course, and the other courses we’re running at TechChange, a look – we’ve got some cool stuff coming up!
I’m also still watching the crowdsourcing poll I put up a week ago – so far it looks like this year’s content will be a mix of general news and opinions, and mathematically oriented analysis of technology applications in peacebuilding and development. Keep the votes coming in, I’m excited to get some writing done while I bounce around Kenya later this month!