Maps Under Fire

I’m doing my field work in Israel ATM, a usually complicated affair that is being even more complicated by constant rocket alarms, running to cover and consequent booms that characterize the current round of conflict. I’m super busy and this blogs suffers, but such is field work.

In any case, this website, called Tzeva Adom (‘Color Red’, the name of the rocket siren system in Hebrew) is a simple Google Maps mashups that sounds (rather melodic) alarms and pins the position of the alarm in real time to a map of Israel. It lacks the magnitude and visualization aspects of something like, let’s say, Norse’s hacking attacks map with its colorful tracing lines and cyber-punk-y feel. It is functional, basic-bordering-ugly and has only one goal: notify of potential threats in real time. It’s significantly different from Ushahidi and similar platforms that use the map as a praxis for aggregated action , akin to traditional conception of counter-mapping; and instead positions the map as a point of immediate action, closer to the turn-by-turn navigational maps of Google, Tom Tom and Waze (and November et al.’s meaning).

Tzeva Adom website with ongoing alarms.
Tzeva Adom website with ongoing alarms.

It is both extremely useful and useless object. Arguably, there are miriad more efficient ways to transfer immediate threat, from the (very loud) sirens actually positioned in most populated areas to keeping any radio station (that announces them in real time) open at a spare tab. It also lacks the informational capacity of infographics or visualizations, aiming to dazzle or explain numbers visually. Yet it is a powerful reminder of the map’s ability to tie imagined and real territories, danger and risk, while motivating and giving direct guidance. The aesthetic experience of watching pins pop up and tying it to the very real dread of darting to shelter, is a powerful feeling indeed.

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