What if the Syrian civil war happened in your country?

What if the Syrian civil war happened in your country?

Organisation: Public Radio International (United States)

Publication Date: 04/08/2016

Size of team/newsroom:small


How do you generate empathy with the victims of a war that has been repeatedly told through various formats and media in the past 5 years? Despite being the most disastrous humanitarian situation in the 21st century, most of us have become numb to the Syrian civil war. Numbers and infographics highlighting the cruelty of the crisis no longer move us. In conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Syrian civil war and the growing anti-refugee sentiment in the US and Europe, this news app uses basic data to allow users to simulate the civil war in their own country, moving the war closer to their hearts. This is another attempt by PRI.org to combine personalization of data, interactivity and creativity to create empathy after the hugely successful news app "What if your hometown were hit by the Hiroshima atomic bomb?" last August. Cited and embedded by other news websites in both the US and Europe, it has been used over 37,000 times in less than one month by users from all over the world, drastically more popular than an average PRI story. The number is still going strong. It is an evergreen content that can be repeatedly pegged with any development relevant to the civil war.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

Instead of just another data story that bombards the users with figures and charts of an issue that they have become desensitized to, this news app brings the Syrian civil war to their own country, and to a certain extent 'personalizing' the war. Most of our users are from countries where driving is common or necessary, hence we compare the simulated death numbers with road traffic deaths in their countries to provide more context. This news app also allows news agency to generate stories from it. At least 2 news websites in Europe have published stories based on the death numbers should the war happened in their countries.

Technologies used for this project:

Spreadsheet - for data compilation and cleaning HTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery, Bootstrap - to build the news app Google Map API - to create the map in the news app Highcharts API - to create the charts in the news app
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