Self Determined Participatory Action of Marginalized Groups: The streets of São Paulo

Transparência HackDay: Temático Moradia (en)

This recording documents the Transpârencia HackDay which took place on Sunday, the 10th of October at the Casa da Cultura Digital in Barra Funda/São Paulo.

The initial discussion with all participants has been recorded almost completely, only the last speeches are missing, which is pretty sad because this part is worth to be analyzed in terms of critical theory of technology, the implementation of technology based participatory projects (for the sake of technology?) and for what reasons projects are pushed forward. Thus, this last part will be reconstructed from memory as good as possible…

The Transpârencia HackDay was articulated by esfera with the objective to make use of web and mobile tools to realize a project in order to enforce an insti- tutional discourse around the issue of lack of housing in the city. The proposal is looking for a cooperation of all citizens, here in guise of hackers, journalists, web and real life citizens, students, etc and social movements (which are of course also composed by citizens), with representatives of Movimento Nacional de População de Rua [MNPR] and Frente de Luta por Moradia [FLM].

One of the proposal of the Transpârencia HackDay was to discuss and elaborate two kinds of digital mappings related to urbanization processes in the center of São Paulo. As possible tools, digital mappings platforms such as Ushahidi could be used, in conjunction with mobile phones and forms of online messaging, websites, microblogging, etc, in order to gather and visualize data and to allow for greater participation.

One mapping could be conducted in order to create a database of empty buildings in the city. Those information could then be used further in order to put pressure on public institutions and to continuously blame the level of housing speculation (also with respect to the four ongoing occupations that are taking place right now in the center, with more than 3800 people occupying 4 large buildings that are empty since years).

A second mapping could be conducted in order to categorize(!) the street population. The justification for this proposal is the currently missing definition of the street population, for example in the Portuguese Wikipedia. Especially this second proposal can (and should) be contested due to several reasons which will be laid out later in this post.

After the first part of the meeting, which consisted of discussions and exchange of ideas, a split in working groups was suggested in order to produce ‘a result’. The need to produce ‘a result’ was justified/enforced by the eventual loss of financial support for this project (proposal) in case that no ‘result’ would have been available. Another issue was the concrete-casted belief that technology constraints can be easily solved, because technological tools can always be adjusted to the actual needs, and people that possess the necessary knowledge are willing to do so. This may be completely right, but one could ask, how a horizontal organization could be realized, how knowledge could be distributed to unskilled people, thus how it could be multiplied, how the division of labor between skilled people that have the responsibility/power over infrastructural issues and the workers that solely produce information can be eliminated or at least diminished, how one can eliminate the dependency of third party financing and by that also project based thinking in or- der to build a sustainable process which survives by the willingness of the people to push it forward and could be maintained as longs as necessary instead of relying on financial support which is usually finite.

Finally, from my personal point of view, any proposal of a mapping of already vulnerable persons and communities should be questioned from an ethical point of view in the first place and at least discussed in great detail with the people itself. One could also ask why ‘we’ always like to analyze those that life in (from our point of view) precarious situations, the marginalized and excluded, and what would be the benefit for them to do so, instead of analyzing the processes and power structures that led and lead to those situations, which would then eventually lead to a massive critique of the system/society we live in. Those points have diminished my expectations of an otherwise good initiative which shows that (a part of) the better situated citizens are also caring about the worsening situation in the city, with respect to the large housing gap for low income and poor citizens in central areas and elsewhere and the denial of the right/access to the city for a growing number of people, if we take for example the street population which is growing every year.

Some of those questions and caveats may have been addressed and answered in the working groups and their results may be available online at some point of time. Nonetheless, its worth to go a bit further and briefly analyze the argumentation for a technology based project from the view of the ‘critical theory of technology’.

‘The Critical Theory of Technology […] argues that the real issue is not technology or progress per se but the variety of possible technologies and paths of progress among which we must choose. Modern technology is no more neutral than medieval cathedrals or The Great Wall of China; it embodies the values of a particular indus- trial civilization and especially of its elites,which rest their claims to hegemony on technical mastery. We must articulate and judge these values in a cultural critique of technology. By so doing, we can begin to grasp the outlines of another possible industrial civilization based on other values. This project requires a different sort of thinking from the dominant technological rationality, a critical rationality capable of reflecting on the larger context of technology.” (Feenberg, 2002)

Thus, the mentioned ‘larger context of technology’ will be the issue of the next post. In the meantime, all recordings are made available for listening on archive.org, dedicated to the commons.

0. Recording of the meeting during Transpârencia HackDay [flac][ogg][mp3]

complete recording, original audio


r3cl41m, 2010. Transparência HackDay: Temático Moradia, São Paulo: r3cl41m. Available at: http : / /www .archive .org /details /TransparnciaHackdayTemticoMoradia [Accessed October 18, 2010].


Casa da Cultura Digital, 2010. Casa da Cultura Digital. Casa da Cultura Digital. Available at: http : / /www .casadaculturadigital .com .br / [Accessed October 11, 2010].

FLM, 2010. Frente de Luta por Moradia. Frente de Luta por Moradia. Available at: http : / /www .portalflm .com .br / [Accessed October 10, 2010].

MNPR, FalaRua. FalaRua. Available at: http : / /www .falarua .org / [Accessed August 23, 2010].

r3cl41m, 2010. Interview: Ocupação Avenida Ipiranga (en). rtc. Available at: http : / /rtc .noblogs .org /post /2010 /10 /11 /interview -ocupacao -avenida -ipiranga -en / [Accessed October 18, 2010].

Rabatone, D., 2010. Transparência Hackday Moradia: 10 de outubro. Esfera. Availa- ble at: http : / /blog .esfera .mobi /transparencia -hackday -moradia -10 -de -outubro / [Accessed October 18, 2010].

Silva, D. & Markun, P., 2010. Esfera. Esfera. Available at: http : / /blog .esfera .mobi / [Accessed October 18, 2010].

Ushahidi, 2010. Ushahidi :: Open Source Crowdsourcing Tools (FOSS). Ushahidi. Available at: http : / /ushahidi .com / [Accessed October 18, 2010].

Wikipédia, 2010. Mendigo. In Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre. Available at: http : / /pt .wikipedia .org /wiki /Mendigo [Accessed October 18, 2010].


Feenberg, A., 2002. 1. Introduction: The Parliament of Things. In Critical Theory of Technology. Oxford University Press. Available at: http : / /www -rohan .sdsu .edu /faculty /feenberg /CRITSAM2 .HTM [Accessed January 4, 2010].

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