David Gross is a professional photographer that has covered war and post-conflict Kosovo, Macedonia, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey. Among other projects, he worked alongside the Thai victim identification team after the Asian tsunami in 2005. While in Thailand, he saw art therapists working with children displaced by the tsunami. This experience sparked his interest in doing a project combining art therapy and photography.

He was so moved by the emotion conveyed in their drawings that he felt inspired to create Inside-Outside, a multi-media project that captures the drawings of Syrian Refugee children paired with photography and audio stories. You can contribute to the project on the Inside-Outside Kickstarter Page.

David Gross headshotIn a few days, I’m jumping on airplane headed for Turkey. From Istanbul, I’m going to Hatay, the border area with Syria, to visit the Syrian refugees, strewn across the landscape from the catastrophe of the civil war.

(Stay with me, folks: this is still a Corona blog entry!)

For project Inside-Outside, my partner and I will travel to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, collect art therapy drawings done by Syrian refugee kids, and pair those with our photographic portraits and interviews. We will publish all this material in a multimedia eBook so we can share the art, photographs, and stories with the world. The eBook will be free: that is best way to reach as many of the more than 120 million iPad owners, a huge potential audience.

The beauty of publishing an eBook is there are no printing or distribution costs — only the cost of making the multimedia eBook itself, significantly less than a printed publication.

So, now we’re back to the Corona SDK part of all this — how mobile apps that we can create ourselves can change the world and bring peace, democracy, and cute cats to everyone.

Because, joking aside, I couldn’t do this project without the ability to publish a multimedia app by myself. I’ve built a multimedia eBook platform using Corona SDK, and the ability to publish cheaply and quickly to an enormous audience is new and revolutionary.

Mobile apps — freed from desktops, internet cafes, and offices, are rapidly changing the world. We have a new opportunity to educate, inform, and influence people around the globe because we have a cheap, quick, widely distributed platform.

As a journalist and an advocate for human rights, this is opening up new worlds for me. I don’t have to rely on the traditional media to reach my audience. Magazines and newspapers are a dying industry that simply cannot make enough money on my kind of story to be bothered to run it.

What about the Web? It had promise, but there is simply too much stuff out there. I can post all I want, to a blog, Facebook, or Twitter, and my hard work will disappear in a matter of seconds… or never been found at all.

My eBook platform lets me have my own channel, so to speak. Sure, I still need to be found, but my app isn’t in a web-space of millions of sites, all equally accessible, or equally hidden. The Syria book will be the iTunes store, and once someone decides to get it, they won’t be drawn hither and yon by the A.D.H.D. distraction of the interwebs. Like a real book, they can spend some time experiencing what I’ve prepared for them.

Consider, too, all the other kinds of apps, from the ones that let you record police abuses to the mobile research tools used in D.R. Congo to establish war crimes. This is not an extension of the Internet (although connectivity is a part) — these tools are what you get when you give everyone a mobile computer.

For all you developers, consider this: when someone fires up your app, you are laying claim to their time, their attention, and their hands in a unique way. If you can be creative, you can harness this. So, go beyond “here is a game” — if you can capture a person, do something good with that!

Probably because I’m a journalist, I’ve ended up creating apps not for entertainment or utility, but as media. It’s pretty exciting, and it’s given me a breath of hope that I can still do the work I love and get it out to the world.

To learn more about the Inside-Outside project, and to support it, please see our Kickstarter page. We need your support — we are in the final days and need help to reach our funding goal, or we lose everything!

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Guest Piece: Traditional Journalism is Dead, Long Live the New Journalism