Mary Hui at Quartz: “The “Be Water” nature of Hong Kong’s protests means that crowds move quickly and spread across the city. They might stage a protest in the central business district one weekend, then industrial neighborhoods and far-flung suburban towns the next. And a lot is happening at any one time at each protest. One of the key difficulties for protesters is to figure out what’s happening in the crowded, fast-changing, and often chaotic circumstances.
Citizen-led efforts to map protests in real-time are an attempt to address those challenges and answer some pressing questions for protesters and bystanders alike: Where should they go? Where have tear gas and water cannons been deployed? Where are police advancing, and are there armed thugs attacking civilians?
One of the most widely used real-time maps of the protests is HKMap.live, a volunteer-run and crowdsourced effort that officially launched in early August. It’s a dynamic map of Hong Kong that users can zoom in and out of, much like Google Maps. But in addition to detailed street and building names, this one features various emoji to communicate information at a glance: a dog for police, a worker in a yellow hardhat for protesters, a dinosaur for the police’s black-clad special tactical squad, a white speech-bubble for tear gas, two exclamation marks for danger.
Founded by a finance professional in his 20s and who only wished to be identified as Kuma, HKMap is an attempt to level the playing field between protesters and officers, he said in an interview over chat app Telegram. While earlier on in the protest movement people relied on text-based, on-the-ground live updates through public Telegram channels, Kuma found these to be too scattered to be effective, and hard to visualize unless someone knew the particular neighborhood inside out.
“The huge asymmetric information between protesters and officers led to multiple occasions of surround and capture,” said Kuma. Passersby and non-frontline protesters could also make use of the map, he said, to avoid tense conflict zones. After some of his friends were arrested in late July, he decided to build HKMap….(More)”.