When Technology Helps Us Become More Human

TIME

It was Tuesday January 12, 2010, and the Haitian capital had just been hit with a massive earthquake.

Far away in Boston, Fletcher School PhD candidate Patrick Meier was faced with a wrenching problem: his wife, also a Fletcher student, was in Port-au-Prince, and he couldn’t get in touch with her. “The anxiety was nearly paralyzing,” he said at a recent event at New America. “I needed to focus, to do something – anything.”

A specialist in so-called “liberation technologies,” Meier realized there was one thing he could do: create a crisis map of the disaster, mapping everything from CNN reports to Tweets. The job of finding and geo-referencing news reports and social media postings soon became too big for him, and Meier reached out to friends at Fletcher and beyond to assist him.

By the following Saturday, Meier found himself commanding a nerve center of fellow volunteers—some there in…

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