Online global terrorism map heads for the MOMA

by Glenn Chapman

An online map pinpointing possible terrorist acts in real time is on its way to a renowned New York City museum as a display of the wedding of technology and human behavior.

Global Incident Map joins an array of software "mash-ups" that combine mapping and presentation of data including terrorist acts, open pubs, local crimes, and restrooms where transvestites can urinate in peace.

The interactive, online maps will be part of a Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit opening at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) on February 19.

"It seems relevant, even though I can't look at my website and think of it as art," Global Incident Map creator Morgan Clements told AFP.

"Anyone who goes to the website is usually shocked by what's going on in the world at any given moment."

The MOMA exhibit centers on interactive internet maps built with free Google software known for graphic markers including pushpins and inverted tear drops, according to museum senior curator Paola Antonelli.

"Web mash-ups are applications that combine different sources into a single platform, making them one face of collaborative design on the Internet," Antonelli told AFP.

"One of the most interesting aspects of contemporary culture is the concept of open source and of collaborative design, and much contemporary production is the result of the synthesis of different sources."

Clements runs the website single-handedly from the basement of his US home in the name of patriotism.

Inspired by the infamous attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Clements devotes his cash and spare time to sifting news reports from around the world and marking anything potentially sinister on an Internet map.

"I basically sit in front of eight computers in my basement and spend my time searching all news sources for articles of interest," the 40-year-old man told AFP.

"I have no law enforcement experience. No intelligence gathering experience. No emergency management experience. I don't even think along the same lines that they do. I trained myself."

Clements says he gleans news of "suspicious events" that he believes could be of interest to terrorism fighters, particularly in the United States, and then marks the map with an icon and a link to the latest online stories.

"For those people who don't want to have their heads stuck in the sand, it is a tool of awareness," Clements said of his map. "For some people it helps them do their job. Some people it scares. Those people should not come back."

The incident map is about 14 months old and grew out of an email digest of headlines Clements began gathering and distributing to friends and family in 2002.

"The map ended up being a logical extension to put information in front of people," Clements said.

Clements says he earns his living and finances his map from his unrelated Internet marketing business.

Clements intends the incident map as a tool for military, police, emergency service workers and others involved in dealing with terrorist activity.

The website typically gets 40,000 to 50,000 visits daily, with 15 percent of those said to come from public agency or military computers.

Clements doesn't expect the incident map to become profitable but envisions one day making money from his mapping mash-up.

"We could use this to map anything," Clements said of the program. "Bird flu outbreaks, gang violence, and disease outbreaks. You could map UFO sightings if you want to."

He created versions of the mash-up for the US Army to track incidents involving its units and for a US group to map happenings involving undocumented immigrants.

Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse.