Monthly Archives: November 2010

Mobile media and design solutions in developing countries

Dead capital is a people and invisible process problem.  Luckily mobile phones are getting smarter at connecting these 2 things all the time.  Here is a link to a Frog Design mobile ethnography project.

We are interested in partnering internationally with local property activists who use multi-media and technology to frame the local people, process and property problems in their Dead Capital cities.  Get in touch with us in the comments section.


Media presence halts demolitions in Vila Taboinha

State Sponsored Demolitions. Despite a concerted resistance effort by residents of Vila Taboinha and frantic action by community groups and the public defenders earlier in the week, a bulldozer rolled into the community and started demolishing houses. Late the previous day, an accord had supposedly been reached between the community and the Housing Sub-Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, which would grant Vila Taboinha a 30 day reprieve until the residents and their houses had been registered by the prefeitura. However, registration was still taking place in the community hall as the bulldozer began its work.

Residents successfully halted work using their camera phones. Early claims that the houses to be demolished were uninhabited turned out to be unfounded when representatives from Catalytic Communities (CatComm) arrived in the community to document the demolition. The houses that were demolished were indeed inhabited – and the inhabitants helplessly watched the homes that they had built with their own hands reduced to rubble.

By the time the two representatives from CatComm had arrived, about half a dozen homes had already been bulldozed. As soon as they started filming the bulldozer pulled out and parked, the driver unwilling to continue under a foreign gaze. The CatComm filmers were immediately apprehended by police ,who demanded they hand over their documents. The police attempted to intimidate the CatComm reps with claims that their presence and activity was illegal, and that they would be handed over to the federal police. The team calmly stood their ground to the rising consternation of the police who, in their floundering for leverage, plainly admitted, “We don’t want to show this”.

Alternative media journalists and residents share their images. What followed was nothing less than electrifying. The community, fortified by the presence of foreign eyes, rallied in support of the Catcomm volunteers, quietly closing a circle around the scene. Community members welcomed the volunteers to the neighborhood, calling out support, denouncing the police intimidation and bearing witness with a dozen camera phones extended, filming the confrontation from every angle.

The police were paralyzed, unable to carry on their charade under such inescapable scrutiny. The documents were returned, the team released back into the embrace of the community. The Bulldozer slunk out, defeated for one more day.

That afternoon, the young, newly inspired journalists from the community gathered with Catcomm and members of several other community groups to collaborate and exchange footage. There, on a broken pool table, as the bytes flew back and forth between devices, the knowledge was breathed into Vila Taboinha that the eyes and ears of the world could now be reached.

Film4Rio Pilot Project

Ashoka is hosting a competition to inspire ideas around the problem of “dead capital” in the developing world. Dead capital is land inhabited by slum dwellers that has not been formalized through the legal title process (and worth  $9.3 trillion!). This may not sound that serious, but imagine if you had no power to sell the land you live on, leverage it as security, or invest in improvements for fear it would be taken away from you at any time.

The Center for Live Capital is working in partnership with a phenomenal 10 year old organization in Rio called Catalytic Communities (CatComm). The LiveCapital platform will use google maps to track infrastructure / services, the formalization process, and local media capture (filmed and uploaded by locals via cameras + mobile phones). Essentially, we will be curating multi-media to form visual narratives and storytelling around the problem of dead capital. By collecting information and communicating stories of the problem, we hope to give local activists the tools they need to press for procedural reform to make it easier to register, transfer and own property.

The organization in Rio (CatComm) is our pilot project. We have helped them create a submission for the Ashoka Changemakers competition to win $50,000 for the Film4Rio project. Rio favela communities face mass forced evictions (already!) as the 2015 Olympics approach. CatComm trains favela residents to use video, social media and storytelling to capture land conflicts. They also document how developments in infrastructure often stabilize property rights, as communities with greater investment are less likely to be removed. In Rio, the public defenders then use the media to defend communities against forced eviction.

Please follow out progress as we work to highlight CatComm’s work around property rights in Rio.