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IST researchers explore technology use in Syrian refugee camp

IST researchers explore technology use in Syrian refugee camp
The Syrian Civil War has caused millions of citizens to flee their homeland, but many refugees have persevered and are seeking to rebuild their lives. Researchers at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) recently traveled to a thriving Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, where they surveyed people as part of a study they are conducting on how the refugees are appropriating technology into their daily lives. “Jordan is an interesting place in that it has been welcoming of refugees, first from Iraq and now from Syria,” said Carleen Maitland, an associate professor at the College of IST. Maitland, along with her graduate student advisee, Ying Xu, visited the Zaatari camp, Jordan’s largest facility for Syrian refugees, in early January. Results of the survey show a high degree of mobile phone and internet use, with 86 percent of youth in their sample owning a mobile handset, and more than half using the internet either once or multiple times per day.

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Don’t let WhatsApp nudge you into sharing your data with Facebook When WhatsApp, the messaging app, launched in 2009, it struck me as one of the most interesting innovations I’d seen in ages – for two reasons. The first was that it seemed beautifully designed from the outset: it was clean, minimalist and efficient; and, secondly, it had a business model that did not depend on advertising. Instead, users got a year free, after which they paid a modest annual subscription. Better still, the co-founder Jan Koum, seemed to have a very healthy aversion to the surveillance capitalism that underpins the vast revenues of Google, Facebook and co, in which they extract users’ personal data without paying for it, and then refine and sell it to advertisers. In a blog post headed “Why We Don’t Sell Ads” written in June 2012, for example, Koum quoted approvingly a memorable line uttered by Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) in the movie Fight Club: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

Young Rappers Work to Educate Syria’s Refugee Children  An appeal to world leaders is calling on them to raise $750 million to educate a million Syrian refugee children living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. A short movie has been produced to highlight the transformational opportunities a place at school can have. ‘With a smile and strength we will shape tomorrow.’ Why you shouldn't buy a new iPhone when the new model is unveiled If you're tempted to upgrade your iPhone next week if, as expected, Apple unveils its new model, Sue Williams has a word of advice. Don't. "I really hope people will think do they need a new device," says Williams, whose documentary Death by Design examines the human and environmental costs of creating our latest tech gadgets and disposing of our old ones. Loaded: 0% Progress: 0%

The For-Profit Refugee Camp To enter the world’s biggest Syrian refugee camp, a place named Zaatari out in the desert of northern Jordan, you need to pass through not one but two checkpoints. The gendarmes at the first casually waved my car through, but their comrades at the second stopped me to inspect my passport and government permission to visit the camp. Just ahead, a pickup truck sagging under the weight of at least 10 people crept through a scrum of foot traffic. Young boys in flip-flops leaned on battered wheelbarrows, hoping to make a dinar or two hauling whatever might be entering the camp.

theconversation In a world of mass communication and social media, people seem prepared to share their opinion on almost any subject. When it comes to remembering a conversation you were involved in, in most cases the deciding factor is the contribution you made to that conversation, according to British journalist Catherine Blyth in her 2008 advice book The Art of Conversation. But today when people talk, online and offline, any real dialogue seems to have given way to parallel monologues, paired with an inability to actively listen. Refugee Camp for Syrians in Jordan Evolves as a Do-It-Yourself City In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the number of refugees worldwide in 2013 topped 50 million, the most since World War II, a figure substantially increased by the Syrian conflict. Add to that one million Iraqis displaced during the first months of this year. These vast forced migrations have accelerated discussions about the need to treat camps as more than transitional population centers, more than human holding pens with tents for transients. A number of forward-thinking aid workers and others are looking at refugee camps as potential urban incubators, places that can grow and develop and even benefit the host countries — places devised from the get-go to address those countries’ long-term needs — rather than become drags on those nations.

AURIN. Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network The AURIN project has resulted in a number of scholarly publications: Hale, C., & Eagleson, S. (2015) A World of Comparisons – Metropolitan infrastructure & local planning cultures & institutional influences. Australian Planner. Zaatari Syrian refugee camp fertile ground for small businesses Image copyright AFP Wheelchair-bound Mohamed Harib does not let his infirmity get in the way of a chance for business. He has joined hundreds of compatriots setting up shops in Zaatari camp, Jordan's largest facility for Syrian refugees. "I opened the shop to try to support my family because there are eight of us here," Mr Harib said of his tiny mobile phone stall sandwiched along Zaatari's bustling main drag, nicknamed the Champs-Elysees, after the famous Parisian street - a wink at Syrian humour. The entrepreneurial acumen of Syrians, like Mr Harib, championing their own grassroots businesses have helped to transform the camp of 85,000 into Jordan's fifth biggest city, while turning a profit for many as well.