Visualizing the law: crisis mapping as an open tool for legal practice

Marta Poblet


Crisis mapping is a brand new field that has recently emerged as a set of online collaborative practices to source, process, and visualize information and data on events that derive from natural disasters (i.e. earthquakes, floods, tornados, or bushfires), crisis, and conflicts. Generally, the goal of crisis mapping is to provide aid organizations, NGOs, human rights activists, etc. with open, real time, geo-referenced, actionable data to organize a more efficient coordination and response. The mapping of the conflicts in Libya and Syria, to mention two recent examples, has allowed volunteers and technical communities (VTCs) to document human rights violations that can be the basis for legal prosecution of war criminals. Crowdsourced crisis mapping, therefore, opens a new era where global volunteer and technical communities may significantly contribute to transform international law by bringing into the picture a new humanitarianism based on practices, emerging norms, and both global and local capacities. This paper makes a case for including crisis mapping as part of the curriculum and studies programs in law schools and providing lawyers with state-of-the art tools to expand their legal skills in a global community


crisis mapping, crowdsourcing, human rights


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