Ramzi Jaber is the cofounder of Visualizing Palestine, an infographics project that tells powerful narratives on injustice that pair data with beautiful, creative visuals.
Because the process of identifying, reporting, and publicizing stories in the Arab world can sometimes be difficult, Ramzi feels it’s particularly important to encourage the spread of Visualizing Palestine through Creative Commons licenses. It’s worked — the visualizations have been used in books, online publications, university classes, and even subway billboards.
Visualizing Palestine describes itself as the intersection of communication, social sciences, technology, design, and urban studies for social justice — an apt description. It is a data visualization project by Visualizing Impact that tells powerful, rights-based narratives of Palestine/Israel using data and creative visuals; stories such as the unfit drinking water in Gaza, the ongoing displacement of Palestinians, and the imprisonment of Palestinian civilians without charge or trial.
There are many reports and documents that outline these injustices, but what the reports don’t provide is an understandable, accessible form of communication for the public. Visualizing Palestine is changing this — making this information more available, digestible, and compelling.
“The problem is in our part of the world, there’s not much content creation — it’s appalling,” explains Ramzi Jaber, cofounder of Visualizing Palestine. “It’s incredibly difficult to gather data, especially when it’s so opaque in the Arab world.” While injustices in Palestine are comparatively well documented, other areas in the Arab world are more murky — making the sharing of this data all the more important. “I’m actually surprised CC licenses are not as prevalent as they should be,” continues Ramzi. “It’s a difficult concept to understand at first, but then it becomes intuitive.”
All of Visualizing Palestine’s work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (BY-NC-ND), and used by individuals and organizations to inform, educate, stimulate communication, and effect change. The organization — which includes a full-time staff of eight and a network of volunteers — has seen a lot of demand. According to Ramzi, it was always his intent for people to spread this work. “Many people have been using our work, and for it to even be used offline is quite great. The wonderful thing about Creative Commons is people use it without telling us so we can’t know how many people are using our work.”
The visualizations have been used in books, online publications, universities, subway billboards, and even used in classes to help design curriculums. They have been featured in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Daily Beast, and recently was awarded at the Ars Electronica Festival in Austria. In addition, many requests have come their way offering to pay for more visualizations, including by Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the United Nations.
But beyond that, Visualizing Palestine has seen something even more substantial and tangible: it’s seen real change. After its first infographic on prison hunger strikes, awareness spread. Campaigns for the release of prisoners held without charge or trial increased. In the end, Khader Adnan, one of the individuals featured on the infographic, was freed.
“We want to be part of the ecosystem that uses tools like Creative Commons to stop discriminatory and racist policies against a community seeking equality and dignity,” says Ramzi. “We’re the first and largest in the Arab world doing what we’re doing. Creative Commons is quite important for our work and we appreciate it. There is awareness because of it,” says Ramzi.
It’s this type of effective, impactful change that is at the root of Visualizing Palestine. In this shift, Ramzi is noticing more and more qualitative effects — such as the difference in terminologies and words people use to describe the situations in Palestine. Ultimately, there is a growing understanding and transformation of Palestine in a different context.
Down the road, the organization is looking to expand its work to include a Visualizing Egypt project and features such as interactive visualization, animation, and embedding questionnaires into its visual downloads so it can learn more about its users.
According to Ramzi, “This system of building on other people’s work is beautiful and is what will take us further — it’s a collective, collaborative work.”
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Ramzi Jaber (Team Open) was written by Meryl Mohan for Creative Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
The illustration of Ramzi Jaber was created by Luke Surl. To the extent possible under the law, Luke Surl has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration.