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Dec. 2, 2010, noon

The crowd reconstructs Moldova’s “Twitter Revolution”

Here’s another cool experiment in crowdsourcing, courtesy of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism and our friends down at the MIT Center for the Future of Civic Media.

Uncut: Revolution Televised is an attempt to make sense of, and further report, the events of the protests that took place in Moldova in the spring of 2009. Co-founder of the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism (and 2011 Nieman Fellow) Stefan Candea tipped us off to the experiment. Following the election of the Communist party to Moldova’s parliament, people took to the streets of the capital in Chisinau in a demonstration that briefly turned violent when protestors took the parliament building and were confronted by police.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the events were dubbed Moldova’s “Twitter Revolution”, as part of the organizing around the protests took place through social media. (Though the degree to which Twitter was a catalyst in the protest is a matter of dispute.)

What the Centre for Investigative Journalism is trying to do is dig deeper into the early hours of the protests by shifting through 16 hours of video footage from CCTV cameras on the streets of Chisinau. The footage, which the Centre was able to obtain through its sources, was decoded and is now hosted by the Center for the Future of Civic Media.

Through the raw video, the Centre hopes to find leads for new stories on the protests — anything from potential misdeeds by the government or police forces to victims hurt in the demonstrations or video that may contradict official statements on what transpired.

Hence the need for eyeballs. The 16 hours of footage total 300 clips, from 13 different cameras — all recording the events from different angles, at times zooming and panning with the protesters and action. A cursory look over the videos and you’ll find a mix of coverage, some of demonstrators standing around waving flags and talking, and others showing fires, apparent looting, and some arrests.

During a time when news organizations are trying to figure out which types of crowdsourcing grain traction with readers — we’ve seen the Guardian offer up an app to let readers help analyze government spending data, a New York Times writer asking for help to source the paper’s best recipes, and the Washington Post partnering with Intersect to cover the Daily Show/Colbert Report rally, among others — the Moldova experiment should shed some light on what works.

What’s interesting about the Centre’s footage (aside from giving viewers a surreal, “Rear Window” type of experience) is that it represents a new way of reconstructing and telling a story. Granted, it’s a story in a raw form, (providing for little context, which is where the Centre comes in), but it’s one that provides the basics in a compelling (and yes, sometimes TV show-like) way.

POSTED     Dec. 2, 2010, noon
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