"Voices on the Gulf" Fosters Community Media in the Gulf

It's been several months now since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. News about the spill, both in mainstream and in social media, has died down substantially since the leak was capped in July. But as the longer term effects -- economically, ecologically -- are still yet to be known in the region, there are still many stories to be told.

And that's part of the spirit behind "Voices on the Gulf," a new community site that encourages people to join the site to "add your voice to the voices of the students and teachers from the Gulf Coast and from everywhere who are discussing what has changed and what must change because of the BP oil spill."

The site is meant to provide both educational material and a discussion forum to talk about the Gulf disaster. The site encourages the firsthand contributions, so to speak, from students and teachers in the Gulf Coast, but also welcomes the participation of students and teachers from all grade levels and all locations. Members of Voices on the Gulf are encouraged to share their thoughts in any format: poetry, songs, essays, photographs, videos.

Projects like Voices on the Gulf demonstrate the potential for social media and social networking sites to perform an important community service: being a tool for people to share their stories, being a site where others can read and respond to these stories, and being an aggregator for news and information.

The Voices of the Gulf project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Knight Foundation, that works to promote digital- and citizen-oriented journalism. Paul Allison in New York and David Pulling in Louisiana serve as the community managers for the site. The site was built by Funny Monkey, an open-source, education- and community-oriented development shop in Portland, Oregon. According to Funny Monkey co-founder Bill Fitzgerald, the technology site will soon be available as a package that anyone with a Linux server can easily get up and running

This sort of easy-to-install and easy-to-contribute site echoes a number of projects we've written about here at Justmeans, including Crowdmap. Having technology tools at the disposal of community members, teachers, and students means that local news, histories, and stories can be easily shared.

As the creators of Voices on the Gulf say, "Those of us who live on the Gulf Coast are eyewitnesses to a turning point in history." The community-based website points to a way in which Web technologies can help record and share what people witness.

Photo credits: Flickr user IBRRC