Thank You

The Human Rights Center would like to thank all the speakers, moderators, sponsors, attendees, and volunteers who helped make Soul of the New Machine possible.

Click here to watch the sessions that were recorded.


Recent innovations in science and technology have provided human rights advocates, journalists, and scientists with new tools to expose war crimes and other serious violations of human rights and to disseminate this information in real time throughout the world. The Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley is pleased to showcase these recent developments and push new frontiers of applied research.

The Soul of the New Machine, an international conference, will be held May 4 and 5, 2009, on the Berkeley campus. It will convene leading thinkers and practitioners to share best practices and develop new strategies for incorporating technology to address human rights abuses. It will also inspire the creation and advancement of innovative projects voters through the “Mobile Challenge,” a competition for using mobile technology in human rights investigations and advocacy.


The international conference will provide a space for leading thinkers, civil society members, activists, programmers, and entrepreneurs to imagine, discover, share, solve, connect and act together.

The conference will focus on two areas of justice and human rights work: 1) evidence gathering and documentation and 2) advocacy and outreach. Conference participants will explore how new developments in science and technology could advance these two areas. The conference will combine keynote addresses and plenary sessions with hands-on opportunities to interact with developers and users during panel discussions, workshops, and a poster session/exhibition hall. The conference will also showcase the projects resulting from the Mobile Challenge (see below).

Keynote Addresses
We are delighted to feature keynote addresses by two innovative speakers:
Trevor Paglen, author of Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World, and James Surowiecki, New Yorker columnist and author of The Wisdom of Crowds.

Session Topics
Over the two-day conference, concurrent panels will be devoted to:

  • "Eye in the Sky": Geographic Information Systems, Satellite Imagery, Data Collection and Security
  • In the Field: Mobile Technologies and Forensic Investigations
  • Human Rights in the Spotlight: Digital Photography, Multimedia, Animation
  • Human Rights On and Off the Intertnet

Technical Workshops and Group Discussions
Along with the panel discussions, participants will roll up their sleeves to tackle new challenges in targeted working groups and discussion forums. Topics will be identified by participants in advance of the conference and may include social networking, issue/event advocacy, tools for data collection in the field, and participatory databases or wikis.

Poster Sessions / Exhibit Hall
The poster sessions will provide a space for individuals to interact informally and learn from existing or proposed projects. The exhibition hall will be open to the public throughout the conference. Up to 20 NGOs, corporations, governmental agencies, academic institutions and individuals will present their work in poster sessions or online demonstrations. Exhibits will include representatives of:

  1. Evidence gathering and data collection
  2. Communication and advocacy
  3. Mobile Challenge projects
  4. Academic research

The Mobile Challenge
The Mobile Challenge invited submissions from nonprofits and advocacy organizations to develop mobile tools that combine data, imagery, mapping and social networking to advance human rights. Mobile technology, often in conjunction with the Internet, can help expose users to a wide variety of information, accommodate dynamic information, and enrich understanding of critical issues through the juxtaposition of data, photos, video, audio or text.

The Challenge received 50 project submissions from 23 countries. Ten finalists were selected by online community vote, and award winners, selected by a panel of judges, were announced at the conference. Winners received cash awards to implement their projects, as well as technical support from NetSquared volunteers. The winners are:

First prize ($15,000) and a MinoHD camcorder from Flip Video:
Guardian: Secure, Private, Anonymous Telephone
Google Android’s open-source mobile telephony platform provides the foundation for a new type of phone that cloaks its user and their data, both on the device itself and as it communicates around the world.

Second prize ($10,000):
Freedom Fone
Freedom Fone is a free, open-source software tool that can be used to build a dial-up information service in any language. Its easy interface lowers the barriers to using Interactive Voice Response for outreach. It empowers non-technical organizations to build automated information services that are available to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Third prize ($5,000):
Digital Democracy’s Handheld Human Rights
Handheld Human Rights empowers human rights groups based around Burma’s borders to share critical infor¬mation and document violations on a map to spur international advocacy. HHR uses SMS gateways to connect people reporting abuses to a web-based hub, efficiently leveraging the work of existing projects through a cen¬tral communications point.

Honorable Mention:
Bug4Good: Open Source for Human Rights


Conference registration is now closed. Please tune in to watch the live webcast during the conference or download sessions later.


The Exhibit Hall will feature a Poster Session and an exhibit of the Mobile Challenge finalists' projects.

The Poster Sessions will provide a space for individuals to interact informally and learn from existing or proposed projects. The exhibition hall will be open to the public throughout the conference. Up to 20 corporations, governmental agencies, NGOs, academic institutions and individuals will present their work in poster sessions or online demonstrations. Exhibits will include representatives of:

(1) Evidence gathering and data collection
(2) Communication and advocacy
(3) Mobile Challenge projects
(4) Academic research

Participation will be opened to qualified organizations and individuals, selected through an application process.


Individuals and organizations interested in sponsoring The Soul of the New Machine can download our Sponsorship Benefits Sheet and Sponsorship Form for more information.


We have created a social network site on Ning in order to provide space for participants to network, discuss topics related to human rights and technology, and submit their ideas for technical workshops they'd like to see at the conference. You can also read our conference blog, upload videos and photos, and create groups. Visit our site here.