The founder and certified Mensa genius talks to The Startup Magazine about social change in the digital age and why he self-funded a project with the aim of helping groups better organize and report on social movements.
Stephen Constantine first thought up his concept of YouMap when up all night watching political events unfold across the globe via Twitter. It was initially going to be an app that followed protesters and allowed protesters to follow protests. “I was watching Iranians getting beat by their own government,” said Constantine. “I could see there was a real need for relevant information on the ground.”
Although political events are closely followed on social media platforms, emotions, people and the context behind the events often get lost in the process. On Twitter for example, you can post in words what you are seeing or experiencing, but it is hard to convey an emotional perspective. It is also hard to put this information into a global context in an age with such an abundance of information.
Constantine developed YouMap to combat these issues, hoping to amplify the voice of those leading social change and adding color to the stories that people should be hearing. The solution was to provide a “Human Atlas” — a map that could be used as a digital playground for the masses. In this digital playground, every post is mapped and can be filtered by channels with patented emoji technology helping to tell a story as quickly and as vividly as possible.
This approach is a shift away from the business-oriented trend when posting location data in social media. The majority of Facebook check-ins, for example, are in restaurants or bars and applications like FourSquare were built with the very purpose of gaining businesses publicity. “The Human Atlas is our tagline as we want people to see what is going on in their world and without it being centered on businesses like our competitors … users should be able to post wherever they want.”
Although it can be used for whatever the user wishes, Constantine does not play down the potential usefulness of the app in the sphere of politics, civil disobedience and general social change. “YouMap is in a way a Trojan horse,” he summarises. “The user interface is pretty, fun, cute, etc., but the real vision behind it is a serious solution to a serious problem – that is the ability for people to report what is going on.”
The idea is that by putting posts in a location-context, they will be taken more seriously and will not be lost in the general noise of social media. “If there is a genocide going on and it is shown on a world map, it cannot be ignored,” adds the CEO. “The earth is only so big and if you spin it you will see what’s happening.”