Do all roads lead to Jerusalem?

Do all roads lead to Jerusalem?

Organisation: Al Jazeera English (Qatar)

Publication Date: 04/05/2016


Size of team/newsroom:large


Do all roads lead to Jerusalem is an interactive online data visualisation that follows the journeys of four residents of the occupied Palestinian territories as they travel to Jerusalem. Since 1967, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have been unable to move freely in their own land. Every day, it's a challenge to get to work, see family or even get life-saving medical care. For most readers, it is very difficult to contextualise freedom of movement, especially with regards to how geography and time differ dramatically for Israelis and Palestinians. To do this, we selected four people at random – each facing different circumstances – and tracked their journeys using a GPS application, photography and traditional reporting. The underlying technology used to visualise the GPS data was Google Earth Pro. This software allowed the developer to import map-based GPX data and process them to simulate the journeys of the four characters in real-time. By doing so, the integrity of the journey, which included the important element of time and space, could be recreated in a real-world environment. Complementary KML data sets were imported into the software to provide suitable context such as the placement of the Israeli settlements, checkpoints, Green Line and separation wall. The distribution of the story was handled in two ways - First, the birds-eye-view of the journey was rendered as a video to ensure maximum sharability. The video version of the story immersed viewers into the four journeys by highlighting key milestones along the various routes to Jerusalem. A countdown clock as well as distance gauge were used to complement the on screen images and map. Second - A dedicated mobile and desktop website were built to allow viewers to consume the story in a more traditional reading mode. This layout allowed readers to compare the journeys of the four residents as they traveled to Jerusalem. Additional context, visuals and GIFs were used in this mode.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

The main objective of this data-driven project was to contextualise freedom of movement. The innovation in this project lies in the use of existing technology (i.e. Google Earth) and the knowledge of GPS tracking data. Rather than relying on traditional reporting techniques where people narrate their stories, here we actually depict the journeys using real representations of space and time. On an individual level, I was responsible for the project concept, design, development and complete execution of the project. This allowed our readers to easily explore the simple yet effective story of freedom of movement in a way that's never been done before. Since launching, the website has been viewed over 60,000 times. On Facebook and Twitter the condensed versions have received hundreds of thousands of impressions and views. Feedback from our readers has affirmed the understanding of an unavoidable truth in Israel/Palestine: Freedom of movement depends on who you are.

Technologies used for this project:

1. Google Earth Pro I imported GPX data from a GPS tracker that was installed on our readers smartphones. In real time I could keep track of the journey and subsequently plot the data accurately on a 3d view of the ground. In addition, I generated KML overlays which showed where the Israeli checkpoints, settlements, Green Line and separation wall were in relation to the journey. 2. SVG - Illustrator and hand-coded I then generated vector graphics from the GPX data to allow native HTML5 SVG animations on the main page. This allowed readers to easily compare the journeys of the four residents of Jerusalem. 3. Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere The videos, count-down timer, transitions, coloring and on screen effects were then edited. 4. Adobe Muse Once that was done I designed and developed a mobile and desktop adaptive landing page to house the complete story.
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