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Humanitarianism is an active belief in the value of human life, whereby humans practice benevolent treatment and provide assistance to other humans, in order to better humanity for moral, altruistic and logical reasons. It is the philosophical belief in movement toward the improvement of the human race in a variety of areas, used to describe a wide number of activities relating specifically to human welfare. A practitioner is known as a humanitarian.
Humanitarianism is based on a view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and should be treated as such. Therefore, humanitarians work towards advancing the well-being of humanity as a whole. It is the antithesis of the "us vs. them" mentality that characterizes tribalism and ethnic nationalism. Humanitarians abhor slavery, violation of basic and human rights, and discrimination on the basis of features such as skin colour, religion, ancestry, or place of birth. Humanitarianism drives people to save lives, alleviate suffering, and promote human dignity in the middle of man-made or natural disasters. Humanitarianism is embraced by movements and people across the political spectrum. The informal ideology can be summed up by a quote from Albert Schweitzer: "Humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose."
Historically, humanitarianism was publicly seen in the social reforms of the late 1800s and early 1900s, following the economic turmoil of the Industrial Revolution in England. Many of the women in Great Britain who were involved with feminism during the 1900s also pushed humanitarianism. The atrocious hours and working conditions of children and unskilled laborers were made illegal by pressure on Parliament by humanitarians. The Factory Act of 1833 and the Factory Act of 1844 were some of the most significant humanitarian bills passed in Parliament following the Industrial Revolution.
The most important principles of humanitarian action are humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality, which posits the conviction that all people have equal dignity by virtue of their being human based solely on need, without discrimination among recipients. Humanitarian organizations must refrain from taking part in hostilities or taking actions that advantage one side of the conflict over another, the çaction serves the interests of political, religious, or other agendas.
Patrick Meier, first started using the term 'digital humanitarianism' after crowdmapping for the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In 2011, Paul Conneally gave a TED talk on digital humanitarianism in which he states that humanitarianism's "origins are firmly routed in the analogue age" with "a major shift coming". In 2015 he authored the book Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data Is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response.
In fact, the role of social media in digital humanitarian efforts is a considerable one. During the summer of 2010, when open fires raged across Russia, causing many to die from smog inhalation, the use of social media allowed digital humanitarians to map the areas in need of support. This is because Russians who were hoping to be evacuated were posting online about the conditions they were in which prompted thousands of Russian bloggers to coordinate relief efforts online. The digital humanitarian efforts in Russia were crucial to responding to the fires in 2010 considering the Russian government was vastly unprepared to deal with such a large-scale disaster.
Within digital humanitarianism, big data has featured strongly in efforts to improve digital humanitarian work and produces a limited understanding of how a crisis is unfolding. It has been argued that Big Data is constitutive of a social relation in which digital humanitarians claim both the formal humanitarian sector and victims of crises need the services and labor that can be provided by digital humanitarians.