12 Oct 2013
As long as 400,000 years ago, homo sapiens are thought to have evolved, somewhere in East Africa. It would be many millenia later, some 60,000 years ago, when we began our long migratory journey, spread west and south into the continent and north and east into Europe and Asia, and, eventually, across the Bering Strait and into the Americas. This epic journey has brought our species to the farthest reaches of the planet and can be credited with the wide diversity of languages, cultures and lifestyles we can find around the world.
This journey is both the subject and substance of journalist Paul Salopek's latest project, Out of Eden Walk. Starting this year in Herto Bouri, Ethiopia, Paul will be walking--literally walking--along one of humanity's migratory trails, with a planned destination somewhere at the southern tip of Chile. During this seven year project, he sends text, audio and video dispatches at 100-mile intervals called milestones, to be display on the Out of Eden Walk web site and the dedicated project site on National Geographic. Along the way, he interviews individuals and families he comes across, and he has invited the general public to join his "digital campfire" through social media, an online learning board, and online discussion boards.
Salopek's work very much operates in the same sphere as Meedan: a combination of technology, journalism and cultural bridging lies at the heart of both the Out of Eden Walk process and Translatedesk. Which is why we're excited to announce a new collaboration with Paul. Thanks to an introduction from Translatedesk advisor Ethan Zuckerman, we will be partnering with Todd Mostak, a researcher from MIT and Harvard who's developing TweetMap, to begin translating and telling the stories of tweets posted in the immediate geographic region of Paul's milestones. Joining us will be translators from the Arabic translation team at Taghreedat. Pauls traversal of the migratory path of the human race will be our trace of a path through hundreds (we imagine) of human languages, and will be also a Github commit measured traversal of a product - Translatedesk- we envision will help crowdsource the diversification of social media content on the internet.
As we write this, Paul is currently walking through the desert of Saudi Arabia, with his most recent milestone posted north of Yanbu. At his next urban destination later in November, our work will begin. As he traverses the Arabic-speaking world, we will be collecting, curating, and translating the messages of a part of the world that's seen more than 2000% growth in social media usage in recent years (Saudi Arabia alone has seen 3000% growth). Be sure to follow the Out of Eden Walk project site and Paul's dispatches on National Geographic. And we'll have more updates soon as the project goes underway.