Crisis Guide: Darfur

One of six Flash-based crisis guides produced by the multimedia production studio MediaStorm for the Council on Foreign Relations, Crisis Guide: Darfur examines the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. The guide has six chapters: an introduction to the crisis, the historical background of the conflict, the larger African context, international involvement in Sudan, an explanation of the Responsibility To Protect, the international security and human rights norm created to help prevent genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and finally a list of further resources, should the user require still more information. The focus here is on educating.

How It Works

The six chapters of the guide all use different forms of media. The introduction, titled “The Grim Reality” is a photo video, a technique used extensively and perhaps even perfected by Mediastorm. Images of both the victims and perpetrators of the violence in the region flip by, accompanied by music and a narrator describing the situation with the occasional sound bite from a world figure.

The historical background is, suitably, an interactive timeline that runs from 1956, when Sudan gained its independence, to 2007, when a joint African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force of 26,000 was authorized. When the user clicks one of the dates on the timeline, an audio clip of a CFR adjunct senior fellow explains what happened at that time.

The African and international context chapters are interactive maps. The first is of the African continent which details various conflicts, UN interventions, and colonial influence. The second is a map of just Sudan, surrounded by the flags of countries and institutions with a stake there. When the user clicks on different parts of these maps, explanatory text and images appear in a sidebar, sometimes with links to other pages on the CFR website for more detailed information.

The explanation of the Responsibility To Protect is handled by a video interview with a CFR senior fellow.

The user navigates from one chapter to the next using a menu at the top of the page.

This is roughly the same format of all of the crisis guides Mediastorm created for the Council on Foreign Relations.

What Works, What Doesn’t

The object here isn’t to tell a story, it’s to impart information. As such, there are no characters in Crisis Guide: Darfur or personal stories. The biggest emotional punch comes in the introduction, when the user sees the faces of the actual victims and their living conditions (and the photos are amazing).

In other chapters, when the user is listening or watching a CFR fellow explain an historical point or piece of policy, there is less to connect to. The audio recordings in the timeline work because there is an accompanying photo for every date to draw the eye, although multiple photos for every date would have helped. However, a three minute video of nothing more than an expert explaining the Responsibility to Protect is stretching it in terms of watchability. Perhaps a combination of text and images would have been the better choice there. But generally, the choice of media suits the topic of the chapter.


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