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São Paulo’s motoboy ethnographers May 22, 2007

Posted by François in creolization.

Earlier this year, 12 motorcycle couriers in São Paulo started using camera-phones to chronicle their daily lives. They get together periodically to discuss each other’s finds and decide collectively what stories they want to cover. The result is Canal*MOTOBOY, a real-time account of life on the Paulista streets.

This is part of “Colectivos transmiten desde teléfonos moviles” at zexe.net, and the motoboys are simply the latest addition to a growing network of “citizen ethnographers”. They join 17 taxi drivers in Mexico City, 25 young gitanos in Lleida, and 16 in León, 10 prostitutes in Madrid, 40 people with disabilities in Barcelona, and 19 immigrants from Nicaragua in Costa Rica.

A fascinating collective appropriation of mobile phones to create a story-telling network. The resulting tales are well worth reading.

(photo: zexe.net/SAOPAULO)



1. Lilian - May 22, 2007

Hello François,
Sorry that I couldn’t meet you here in SP. This Motoboy’s Channel seems really cool, I guess more initiaves like that are going to show up in the near future.
Al the best,
Lilian Starobinas

2. Street Ethnographers « dérive - May 22, 2007

[…] been doing fascinating work with Francis Pisani on appropriation of phone technology, reports on Sao Paolo’s “motoboy ethnographers.” Earlier this year, 12 motorcycle couriers in São Paulo started using camera-phones to chronicle […]

3. David Brake - May 23, 2007

So is this something that these people have come up with themselves, or have there been academics/action researchers who have prompted them to do it? Is there more online than their pictures? I’d love to hear more about this…

4. François - May 23, 2007

Hi Lilian, glad you found your way here.
David: the overall Zexe.net project is the work of catalunyan artist Antoni Abad. canal*MOTOBOY is a partnership with Gilson Schwartz, who directs Cidade do Conhecimento at the University of São Paulo (http://www.cidade.usp.br)

5. Eugenio - June 5, 2007

Hi David,

This is Eugenio Tisselli, programmer of zexe.net.
François pointed me to your questions, and I am glad to reply.

The ideas of the projects at zexe.net are originated by Antoni Abad, always in collaboration with associations and institutions related to the communities to which the projects want to address. When a project is initiated, individuals belonging to a specific community, such as taxi drivers in Mexico City or motoboys in Sao Paulo, are recruited through ads in newspapers, radio or even by personal invitation. Then, the participants are introduced to each other and taught how to send multimedia contents from the mobile phone to the web page. In every project, there is a place for face-to-face meetings, where participants can discuss which topics they will talk about.

Currently, the meetings of the motoboys are going on, and they are still posting and deciding on new themes. You can get a quick view of their main concerns by looking at a section (we call it “channel”) of the webpage called “DIAaDIA”. There, you will find a “tag cloud”, made up of words that the motoboys have used to describe their contents.
There are two channels which are maintained by researchers at Sao Paulo: “Remoto” and “?”. In these channels, the researchers construct a study that is made up of with contents generated by the motoboys and combined with their own texts.

So, what you see in canal*MOTOBOY is the result of an ongoing process.

I hope this has answered your questions. If you want to know more, please feel free to contact me at cubo23 [at] motorhueso [dot] net

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[…] talking to people involved in mobile technology and projects. Through the Abaporu blog I found the Motoboy Channel, a fascinating perspective of what happens on the streets of the city I live in and which I was […]

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