Interview with VozMob Coordinator

conducted on Nov 19, 2008

Goals and vision of the project

“We want to become visible. From invisible to visible. From voiceless to people that scream.”

Project Goal and mission
Mobile Voices is a pilot program to see how we can use open sources tools (and other cheap technologies that anyone can use) to empower workers to tell their own stories.  The stories that happen every day at workers centers are not told and the mainstream media does not have the workers humanity in mind.  Thus this the ability to tell their own digital stories should empower the day labor community, and the immigrant community as a whole, to counter anti-immigrant voices. This is also part of IDEPSCA’s popular education agenda to not only empower people but also to inspire a political agenda.

The coordinator also hopes the project becomes a communication tool between the “alienated” and the rest of the community. “We want to become visible. From invisible to visible. From voiceless to people that scream”.  It should help create a perception of “what people are not seeing”, i.e., the “human side” and daily lives of the day laborers.

Vision for MV in one year:
It should be an organic space. A worker-run initiative that enables day-laborers to tell their stories and document human rights abuses, unpaid wages and police brutality on their own, without an external person running the project. A lot of workers, maybe 20% of IDEPSCA, will be involved. The coordinator thinks the success of MV will not just related to the PCT,  but how we will bring it back to the other centers . Success is when the team grows and when we are able to leave IDEPSCA to go to another org, another community. It should become a national network of day laborers that they can use as a means to communicate

MV fit with IDEPSCA
Technology has a lot of potential for furthering IDEPSCA’s commitment to popular education.  It should create more opportunities for popular education work and make IDEPSCA more tech savvy, although it has been a challenge for The coordinator to figure out how to teach technology in a popular education framework. The project will not only serve the community we work with, but the internal organization as well.  For example:
•    Wiki: can be used for organizers to share techniques or ideas on addressing certain issues
•    Blog: organizers do not always get time to remove themselves and write articles, but the blog can be used to document community events as well as incidents like police raids that otherwise might not get documented.

MV and PCT
MV contributions to PCT
MV brings a multimedia perspective to what the PCT has already done (e.g., the newspaper) and what they can do in the future and they will decide what to do with it from here.

Tolls being used by PCT
“it’s a work in progress. All the tools have been challenging one way or another but they know they have to learn.”

“Every day I’m amazed how we see their stories from beginning now , how they are evolving. You can see success when you see the first pic compared to what you see now, for me that’s a “wow” every day, every second. “

We have three core people who have used every single element (blog, voice and sms) although certain members may prefer one form over the other (e.g., one member does a lot of mms interviews on buses, another takes pictures wherever he goes, etc). The coordinator has not heard the PCT express a desire for any additional technology tools.

•    Gizmo voice mail: This gets shared a lot with friends. PCT does not necessarily tell people to call the number on their own, but they might tell people, ”hey, use my phone, leave a message here”
•    mms: gets used a lot. They have been using phones to record interviews.
•    Phones: “Practice makes perfect”, although how the system will work out with other phones needs to be worked out. How can we determine which phones people should use and direct them to buy those models?
•    Website: It works well and she is happy with how easy it has been for the PCT to write blogs and upload stories, but the design needs improvement so visitors don’t get lost.  She hopes that the PCT can work on a design that will make it more practical for people to find and see the stories.
•    Flickr: a great tool, but hope in the future to use open source and non-commercial sites.

PCT’s improvement in technology use

“MV is great in the way that it is not something created for a specific purpose but it encompasses al of our daily life as human beings.”

The coordinator feels there has been a lot of growth in terms of the PCT’s tech usage. They have all learned to blog. While some may have been able to write a letter in MS Word, it is powerful for The coordinator to see them be able to write something online so that the info is readily available to share with their friends. One member didn’t have a phone, now he takes pictures and sends messages. Another member only used the phone to make calls, now he is writing messages through the phone.

PCT’s ownership/investment in the project

“I think they think it’s theirs. It is theirs.”

There are 3 members who come just about every week and 2 who come less regularly.  The coordinator feels that they have full investment in the project and that this investment is partially credited to the hands on nature of the project and the tangible outcome it produces quickly. While the newsletter takes them 3 months to write, they can see the outputs from MV right away. She considers this a key thing that leads to that sense of empowerment.

What does the PCT need to learn/do next?
She is not sure what they need in terms of the tools, as she sees these as a work in progress, but she feels there is a need for an analysis of why we are doing this work. There’s a need to look at how the media portrays immigrants and how MV is part of an effort to address this.

MV at the hunger Strike
There was an expectation that the tools already in use with the PCT could be used with everybody at the hunger strike without people needing much help, but these expectations may have been too high in that new people were not able to use the tools as much as hoped. However, The coordinator feels the PCT’s involvement (writing stories, being at the event and being involved, workshops at the strike) was successful. She was also happy to see the PCT team and the GWC connecting and both teams working in the public realm.    A lot of people at the strike were excited by MV work. People looked at the photowall that was put up and people watched Pedro’s video, but she is not sure if everybody knew about the project and if there was enough visibility.

Overall, MV was an asset to the strike. Without the blog, Gizmo phone calls or flickr pages, no one would have known what was happening.  Hits on the blog and people’s use of flickr photos on their MySpace pages indicated that people were viewing/using the content.  What happened organically with the PCT was awesome, but setting more specific goals with them prior to the event would be an improvement for next time. She felt that the technology was sufficient, although a work in progress, so kinks need to be worked out.

To improve for next time
•    Capacity: Have a group of people who will be there the whole time. Either volunteers or staff.
•    Set Goals: We should set goals of what we want to see and when, rather than just providing tools without goals for guidance about what to do with them
•    Tech: More phones
•    Tech training: The team should be very familiar with the tools before the action so time is not spent teaching how to use the technology at the event.

The coordinator looks at the content every 2 days or so and does send the links to friends, but she has the sense that others are not looking at/using the uploaded content.  Her vision is that the audience should be the day laborer community across the US who can start using the tools as a means to communicate.

What needs to happen next
Overall, The coordinator feels that we need to have a fully functional set of tools in place and visibility among other centers before we move on.  It is her hope that this would happen within a few months of this interview.

•    PCT: The coordinator feels that the PCT needs to “mature” a little bit.  The newsletter needs to be finished and maybe a showcase needs to happen.
•    Visibility at other centers: She doesn’t think other day laborers at other centers know the existence of this project. There has not been any advertising or efforts to show the work beyond a few centers. The other centers needs to start to understand the project, so we don’t get there and introduce it as something new.  “We did the survey 1 yr ago, and they haven’t seen us since then. So I don’t want to go back now and say “lets start now” without them seeing that some results have happened.”
•    Tech:  The tools also need to be fully functional and the website more easy to navigate.


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