Saturday, April 14, 2007

Google Earth--Darfur Style

Google Earth is a pretty amazing device. At a few clicks of the mouse, you can see your childhood home, your elementary school or any place across the world. In my case, I recently viewed the hotels that I'll be staying in in Lyon, Paris, Florence and Nice. It's a really neat tool that has now expanded into a new mapping device showing the devastating effects of the Darfur crisis.
"The collaboration is an effort to raise awareness about the three-year-old conflict that has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people by giving ordinary people access to images generally available only to spies, diplomats, and heads of state. Nobody questions whether Google Earth's new service is – in the specialized terminology of the Web – "cool." The question is: Will it will make a difference? "

When I first read that Google was offering images of the devastation, I was appalled. It's one thing to get an image of the Eiffel Tower, and quite another to search for an image of a starving family. But then I realized that all of the good that could come from people actually seeing what was, and still is occuring in what may seem to be a country a world away.
"But how up-to-date are the images? They are not in real time. Google Earth's images are photographs 'taken by satellites and aircraft sometime in the last three years' and 'updated on a rolling basis,' according to Google's website. The Holocaust Museum's website says the satellite imagery of Darfur and Chad was taken between 2003 through 2006."
This may be a bit of an ethical issue in that what is seen in the images may not be current. A journalist wouldn't write a story and use a photo from three years ago. I tried to Google Earth my house the other day and because it is new, it wasn't there. The fun of Google Earth was taken away from me!

I do applaud Google for emphasizing the importance of what is occurring in Sudan, yet, if false information and photos are being portrayed as truth, their efforts may in fact be quite negative. The truth, in all situations, should be the highest standard.


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