A Summer with Vozmob



This summer I have been working with IDEPSCA, The Institute of Popular Education of Southern California, through an internship provided by the Center for Civic Media. As stated in their name, IDEPSCA is an organization that works under the premise of popular education. Popular Education is a practice and approach perhaps most widely associated with pedagogue Paulo Freire and his influential work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. IDEPSCA works in three major domains: Human Rights and Immigrants’ Rights, Education and Youth, and Economic Development.

For the duration of the summer, I have been working with the Drupal-based platform Mobile Voices or Vozmob. In the words of IDEPSCA, Vozmob is: “a platform for immigrant and nonimmigrant low wage workers in Los Angeles to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones, thus gaining greater participation in the digital public sphere, especially for those with limited access to computers” (read more). Operating under the premise of “Popular Communication,” Vozmob emerged from a collaboration between IDEPSCA and the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at USC. The platform has been very successful in providing tools for low income workers, and the project has won multiple awards.

The first step for my internship was a video conference with Mobile Voices Organizer Pedro Joel and MIT Professor Sasha Costanza-Chock. Pedro was in Los Angeles, Sasha was in Europe I believe, and I was in Boston. In this meeting, we discussed the priorities of my internship, which included: helping update user guides on the Vozmob site, translating stories from Spanish to English, and amplifying stores and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with Social Media. Since then, I have translated dozens of stories into English, and an updated user guide is being developed.

The second step of my internship with Vozmob involved meeting with the Popular Communication Team (PCT) in Los Angeles. The Popular Communication Team oversees Vozmob and other media and communication related projects for IDEPSCA. The team includes Pedro Joel, Ricardo, Ranferi, and Madelu, among others. From June 25 until June 29, I was able to meet, collaborate, and learn from the talented members of Vozmob. During my first day with the PCT, I got to know the team, as well as share about my own history and past experience. In the days that followed, I had one-on-one meetings with Madelu and Ricardo to discuss and assist with any media and technology concerns that they had. For example, during my first meeting with Madelu, we were able to cover how to use video transitions using iMovie.

The largest project, however, was preparing for the Aprendamos Summer Program workshop. In the summer, IDEPSCA is involved with a program for children and their parents called Aprendamos (Let’s Learn). The PCT was in charge of facilitating a Vozmob workshop with parents on June 28. The workshop had several components, including an ice-breaker activity, an introduction to Vozmob, and a hands-on training of using Vozmob. In addition, the workshop was to be broadcasted to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit! My tasks involved developing an ice-breaker and memory activity, which I did with inspiration from materials provided by Pedro Joel. I was also assigned to help parents set-up accounts with Vozmob using their mobile phones, via MMS (picture text message) or by calling a special phone number. The workshop went very well, and it was very insightful and inspiring to see people post their first online content using a mobile phone. For some people, it was their first content ever posted online, which speaks to the great possibilities that Vozmob, IDEPSCA, and the PCT can provide for certain communities. I left Los Angeles amazed and inspired by this work.

I am still working with Vozmob, however now from a distance while in Massachusetts. I continue to translate featured stories from Vozmob on a weekly basis, and I am able to share the many amazing stories that are posted regularly using social media. I am also updating user guide for the site in both English and Spanish and creating a social media analytics sharing guide (more on this in an upcoming post). I expect to blog more about my experiences with Vozmob, so those who are interested should keep an eye out!

Check out the pictures from the Aprendamos Workshop below!