I've found a horrible and distracting background noise while I work on my articles for ArcticStartup. I'm a news junkie, and I've been following the Middle East on Bambuser, the live video broadcasting service from Sweden. Over the past week I've spent a considerable amount of time listening and watching feeds from Homs, Syria, which usually just shows a still shot of rooftops from a webcam. There's not much to see, so I'll write my articles just listening to Homs while Bambuser runs in another tab. Syria's army has been shelling Homs, a town held by rebels, and at least 300 people have been killed in Homs alone since February 4th. Lots of startups in the region are doing important work, but none have affected how I look at the world like Bambuser.
The fact that it's live video and sound hits me hard. We've all seen footage of bombings in Iraq on the evening news, but the live aspect changes everything; you no longer can hide behind a convenient lie that what you're seeing isn't real. Every explosion you hear happened only a second ago, and that crunch you heard could very like have been some innocent civilian's house. Who knows how many live shots I've heard from an automatic weapon that ended in someone's last breath? It's insane to me that I can sit in my comfortable office here in Helsinki and witness the madness of war in real time.
I've gotten a good feel of the new normal of Homs by spending tens of virtual hours in the city. At times the feed is peaceful and almost zen. The sun might be setting and you'll see a group of birds fly to one side of the frame, then change direction and fly out the way they came in. Its also all very foreign and therefore interesting to me; I've never really heard a prayer called from a minaret before listening in on Bambuser, but now it's just a normal occurrence to hear low-fidelity wailing when I'm typing away an article.
But while the bombing has died down a lot from last week, it's still constant, and you're still never far away from the violence. Power has been cut off in Homs for some time, and you still never hear anything but birds, automatic weapons, the sharp crack of sniper rifles, explosions, and the silence.
The silence sometimes makes you forget that you're even streaming anything. I just sit at my desk with headphones, typing away until a shell, rpg, or mortar hits close by. And that first one in a long time always hits close by. While there are breaks in the shelling, on average two rockets are falling a minute according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
What does that make me for sitting in a comfortable office in Helsinki and listening to live war tapes all day? At its worst it's a sick curiosity. At best I guess its I'm just someone trying to figure out whats going on in the world. I haven't internalized it, all I know is that I keep coming back for more.
A few days ago, I was watching Syria Pioneer's live broadcast of the rooftops over Homs, and once ever 5 minutes he would say something along the lines of, "We need help. We have no medicine. Tell Obama and UN what is happening."
The guy never came into the frame, and his rough pronounciation gave me the impression that he didn't really speak English and was reading off of Google Translate. What a sign that we're living in a new world. Thank goodness Bambuser has given a platform for people to show the unfiltered reality of what's going on.
You can keep up to date with the most notable live feeds from this Twitter account: @Bambuser_Alert
And here's our interview with co-founder Måns Adler after his trip to the Egyptian Elections.