About Pattrn

What is Pattrn?

Pattrn is a tool to map complex events—such as conflicts, protests, or crises—as they unfold.

Working as an aggregator of data in different media formats as well as an advanced data visualisation platform, Pattrn enables its community of users to share and collate first-hand reports of events on the ground and to make sense of diffused fragments of information.

Its principle is simple: everything that happens does so at a given place and time. The tool enables its users to build a dataset of events with space and time coordinates, and to add tags , media , and content to these events. Anyone can contribute data, anonymously.

The database can then be explored through an online visualisation platform : while a map provides access to the details of each event, interactive charts and filters enable to reveal patterns across the data. Together, users of Pattrn can thereby create the big picture of an ongoing situation.

Designed to be used in the fields of conflict monitoring , human rights , investigative journalism , citizen science , and research at large, Pattrn responds to new ways of reporting from the front in the digital age.

How does Pattrn work?


A Pattrn instance comprises of:

  1. A frontend visualisation platform (the Pattrn app ) combining several JavaScript libraries – which pulls and visualises data from...
  2. ...a dataset of events, each happening at a given time and location. The dataset linked to a Pattrn instance can either be published with the Pattrn app, or it can be hosted in the cloud, where it can be updated as needed (for example, by adding new events as they happen), with updates reflected immediately in the Pattrn app.

When hosting a dataset in the cloud, Pattrn editors can choose whether and how to allow contributors to submit new events: the Pattrn app simply retrieves the latest data available from the configured dataset, which itself can be growing dynamically as contributors submit new data or modify existing data.

In order to provide a convenient and simple to use interface for crowdsourcing of event data, Pattrn includes a proof-of-concept Pattrn Editor for users who host the Pattrn dataset on Google Sheets: this data editing web application is built on Google Apps Script and facilitates the process of entering and editing data.

The Pattrn Editor is aimed at users who wish to set up a Pattrn instance with crowdsourced data quickly and easily. Advanced users, or users who wish to avoid using Google’s proprietary and opaque infrastructure for reasons of privacy and accountability will likely want to use ad-hoc data collection and verification workflows: as long as the dataset can be accessed via HTTPS in GeoJSON format, the Pattrn app can be configured to visualise its data.


Individuals or organisations that start a Pattrn instance are called Editors.

Editors can:

  • Configure how data is visualised on the Pattrn app
  • Edit the settings of the Pattrn app

When using Google Sheets for the backend dataset and the Pattrn Editor to edit data, Editors can also:

  • Access the Pattrn Editor linked to the Pattrn app
  • Review, verify, and publish external contributions of data on the Pattrn app

General online users of a Pattrn instance are called Observers. In addition to exploring the data available on the Pattrn app, Observers can participate to the research by contributing new data, either through ad-hoc data reporting/editing workflows put in place by Pattrn Editors, or through the Pattrn Editor interface mentioned above.

Why Pattrn?

We are witnessing a revolution in the way people access information about events.

With the global spread of digital connectivity, conflicts, protests, or crises around the world are increasingly reported by the very people that experience them first-hand. However, it is more and more challenging to make sense of the mass of data created, to piece together seemingly disparate events, and to distinguish between facts and rumours.

The Pattrn project set out to respond to the challenges and opportunities of this new media landscape.

Pattrn is primarily developed as a tool to support research and information around armed conflicts, human rights violations, or social and environmental crises. In addition to working as a crisis-mapping tool, Pattrn integrates powerful analytics that allow for temporal and spatial trends, or patterns , to be revealed across large datasets.