Interview with IDEPSCA’s Director – highlights

1. Mobile Voices and IDEPSCA

In the director’s words, “Mobile Voices is a natural link to the kind of work we do. It’s already there. It’s just a matter of looking at what would be the best way to reinforce all the work that we’ve been doing with mostly immigrants and impoverished people.”

2. Mobile Voices as empowering and liberating

“The storytelling is incredibly powerful. It humanizes people in this global economy where individuals are not worth a cent. They are only used for their labor contributions and after they get to a certain age, they are just thrown away. But in the process, while we stop this incredible inhumane treatment of people, we can document a lot of stories. One dream that I have is that the workers will have the capacity to document people who exploit them and take photographs. And we’ve done that with day laborer programs by sharing with them booklets that we developed way back in the 90s, where they would write the person’s name, the date that they were hired, the license plate number, and exactly what was the offer. And it worked for a while, but you know, people are not – it becomes almost very impractical. You need to have a pencil, if you know how to write, then you can do it, but if you don’t know how to write then it is more difficult. But with a phone you can take a photograph of the license plate and record the date and time and what was the offer and the address. It’s a lot easier. Then when we develop further. We can document all those people who exploit workers, and have it out there so people know about it. So, that’s one objective that I wish we can accomplish with this program. So, it’s fascinating – it’s fascinating that we can use the technology in this way to liberate ourselves.”

3. Expanding the Mobile Voices project

The director believes the goals of the project could be expanded so that workers could use a debit card to upload minutes to their phone and also to send money back home. As he notes, “The technology is there. I understand that if I use my debit card and my mom back home has the same card, then through the phone I could tell her, ‘I just put in $50 in your debit card,’ and she could use it. She could go anywhere and withdraw money. And that would be beneficial for the families because right now Western Union charges a tremendous amount of money for remittances.”

4. Mobile Voices’ current goals

The director is satisfied with how the current goals are being met. He has seen visible results with the participants in the pilot program and says they are very excited about the project. He knows that the during the strike the tools were used widely: “It makes us part of what they are now calling ‘the citizen reporter,’ where any regular person can document a story and they witness the truth. And we can call on them whenever he or she is available. So that’s what we want, so we can eliminate more corporate information that is diluted, and citizens can take more of a stand on power relations and against corporate greed.”

5. Mobile Voices and the Hunger Strike

The director thinks that the potential for organizing through the phone is incredible, and he used his phone during the fast and also sent 100s of emails to his networks so they would support the fast and send emails to the government. He believes that if we can use Mobile Voices to increase people’s awareness and also have them develop the skills to document their stories, it will be a tremendous contribution to the social movements.

In his words, “[Several participants] recorded and documented on a daily basis. And that brought our participation level to an even higher level, that I hadn’t thought about it. So, I didn’t have that many expectations, but once it was done and I saw the outcome I was very glad that we had this project on board with IDEPSCA.”

6. Mobile Voices and future organizing

“I thought that if we had had two more days, two more days we could have launched it at even greater levels of awareness, at a national level. It was there, but it wasn’t at the level that I wish we could have had. Nevertheless, the contributions that Mobile Voices made impacted a lot of people’s lives. We heard people from Santa Cruz, from San Diego and from LA calling in saying this is awesome and we should do it more often. I think next time we will be more prepared. I believe that we need to move on those activities – non-violent actions – more frequently now.

[With the new administration] we are prepared to do it again, to do non-violent civil disobedience anywhere and to push this administration because we don’t need to have an imperial government, we need to have a more republic. I think everybody knows that, and we don’t have the resources nor the stamina – people are tired of contributing to an unjust war, criminalizing and intervening in other people’s lives. It’s just not the way it should be. So, we – getting back to the question, I think we will be more prepared. We will have more phones available. I think there will be a moment when hopefully we can continue connecting at a national level. Because that’s the future. Just another anecdote, during the 2006 mega-marches that had never happened before in the United States for immigrant rights. There were so many marching in so many cities – it was a historic moment. But the particular mobilizing instrument that was used was text messaging of high school kids, and their brothers and sisters in middle schools. They were really very good at mobilizing and did school walkouts. So now that we’re more savy with technology and with more training I bet you we can replicate the movements, the social movement that is needed in this country.”

7. What to do to make the tools more useful

The director believes there are two things to do to make the tools more useful: replicating with other workers and making the website more accessible.

8. Mobile Voices and the corporate media

He feels it is important to prove to “the corporate media that the people have the wherewithal to change the society to tell the truth. And I think that gets lost sometimes in the corporate media. If we are able to do it through the Mobile Voices and show the values behind it, I think it would generate more passion and more understanding and focus and bringing folks to say, ‘Yeah, we can do it.’ If we can just compare how the corporate media uses the news to program people to think one way. But if we can show how liberating it is to tell your story and be witness to truth, I think we’ll be able to increase the potential of the project. It’s a lot of work but I think people will be able to understand that. It’s not hard to understand. It’s just that there’s so much noise in the media and everywhere that people don’t pay attention to the potential that this technology has, and it’s right there at the tip of their hands.”

9. How Mobile Voices can support actions/protests in the future

According to the director, what is going on now is similar to what happened in 2006 because young are texting and sending messages and photographs all the time. To him, “if we could only focus on the outcome of social economic development, that would be great.”

10. Mobile Voices tools and the PCT

The director belies the PCT is using the tools well: “they are learning how to ask specific questions, document those questions, and learning about the technology….They taught me how to send multiple text messages. I didn’t know that. That’s incredible. I can send five at a time.”

11. Concerns about the project

There are concerns about how the technology could be used in a negative way, by certain groups or organizations, to hurt the workers.

12. Combing Mobile Voices with popular education

The director stated that there a lot of good tools on popular communication that IDEPSCA has done trainings on, so he wishes there were time to help the project in popular communication because right now the focus is more on technology. Mobile phones and Internet technology are important for the popular education work of the popular communication team and not only day laborers, but also other groups that IDEPSCA works with, including street vendors in Pasadena and the magic cleaners, so that both groups could organize and document more effectively. This could save time and resources.

13. What should be done next for the project to accomplish its goals

“More training, perhaps expanding, or opening up for other people who are interested. Now that we have proof that this project is doable. I wish we could take it to all of IDEPSCA’s programs. The day laborers are six and there’s a tremendous impact, but we have the women, the parents, the school education, the street vendors, etc. and we can say this is what we are doing, would you like to be part of it. So it has to be very strategic and also connecting it with our work in popular education, that this technology can help out and this is the future.”

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