Tactical Technology – Exposing the Invisible

From June 2011 – June 2012, Tactical Tech have undertaken the initial phase of their Exposing the Invisible project, which was implemented with the support of the Indigo Trust.  We awarded a total grant of £16,350 towards this project (which you can read more about here). Tactical Tech were able to leverage this grant and add a contribution from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, which increased the overall project budget.

The global activities, workshops and collaborations which took place as part of this project have allowed Tactical Tech to explore how data and visualisation techniques can be used for engaging audiences in issues related to transparency and accountability. Indigo were particularly interested to receive feedback on the collaboration with The Land Matrix as ‘land grabbing’ has a significant impact in Africa and we are already supporting a project in this space in Tanzania.  We were also delighted to see Tactical Tech working with female activists.

The overriding features of the work have been the flexibility to react to opportunities as they arose and, most importantly, to prove that dynamic visualisation techniques can attract attention to issues and give audiences new incentives and opportunities to explore those issues that they are interested in.

Within the Exposing the Invisible project the following activities were implemented:

  • A Series of Workshops on Data and Design in Advocacy – including a workshop at the Association of Women in Development (AWID) in Istanbul ; Turning Evidence into Action workshop for 300 toxic waste advocates from around the world; Data Visualisation in the Wild workshop for 50 think-tanks working on transparency and accountability in the Balkans and participation in the steering committee for the International Anti-Corruption Conference which will be held in Brazil in November 2012.
  • Collaborations between Activists and Designers Resulting in Visual Representations – The Land Matrix and Delhi Digests, a sketchbook on e-waste
  • A detailed implementation plan for a touring exhibition and accompanying book titled Exposing the Invisible –including concept proposal, exhibition design, provisional venues and a brief overview of the status of the book.

Focus on Visualising Women’s Rights Workshop at the Association of Women in Development (AWID) Forum

We were also delighted to see that Tactical Tech organised a training workshop on visual advocacy; “Visualising Women’s Work: Using Information Design for Women’s Rights Advocacy” at the Association of Women in Development (AWID) Forum held in Istanbul on the 19-22 April 2012.

The workshop aimed to introduce participants to data visualisation as an empowerment tool which they could use to make advocacy campaigns more effective and widespread. The workshop was attended by 50 participants from around the world including journalists, NGO workers, development consultants, lawyers, policy-makers, who in their feedback highlighted the importance of learning innovative solutions  in order to strengthen their women’s rights advocacy and activist work.

An article on genderIT.org – written in response to the Tactical Tech worksop – by Erika Smith, membership and network development coordinator for the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Networking Support Programme, can be read here.

Focus on the Collaboration with The Land Matrix

The Land Matrix is an interactive online database and visualisations of land acquisitions worldwide in collaboration with the International Land Coalition (ILC).  One of the challenges in this collaboration came from agreeing on the use of language on the Land Matrix Website. The partner organisations, with highly specialised backgrounds, tended to use technical language and Tactical Tech had to argue for the importance of using non- specialist language that could increase accessibility and expand the number of potential users. This discussion process led to the articulation of the three different entry points to the database – get the point, get the picture and get the detail – to give space to the interests of different audiences; ranging from general to specialist.

The scale of the response to the online resource took the leaders of ILC by surprise. In a follow-up meeting in May 2012, the leaders of the coalition told Tactical Tech that the visibility that the database received had been overwhelming and had far exceeded their expectation.  In fact it even made the coalition vulnerable: the fact that many specialists and ‘hobbyists’ went through their database in detail put the organisation under great scrutiny and subjected them to wide-scale critique. However much this was initially a matter of concern for the ILC, it has turned into an asset: the organisation has, in fact, now addressed its own data issues and developed a stricter classification and analysis criteria. In addition, they have adopted a more sustainable and long-term approach to their database and are currently reworking the systems they use to collect and store their data.

We look forward to seeing how Tactical Tech’s work evolves moving forward and how activists begin to utilise new technologies to their advantage.