M: I am Marcela
L: and I am, Luisa
M: We are part of the Portal sem Porteiras or gateless portal
L: an association created to formalize our community network
L: Today our community network has an infrastructure of 12 nodes, omnidirectional and sectorial radios that connect to a mesh. These points were programmed to communicate with each other thanks to Libremesh, a software installed to replace the factory firmware, changing the way the router thinks.
With a server we have an infrastructure that allows us to circulate our own information creating a local network. In addition, a pair of directional radios with a 30dbi antenna make the long-distance link to the gateway, or the connection to the "Big Internet".
M: This idea started 3 years ago. Since then we went up, down and up the mountain again carrying the antenna on our back, connected and disconnected from the internet, hosted our local network in a Raspberry, changed it to a Tvbox and then to a 4TB server. We have limited access requesting coupons for connection, opened the network and established the association, learned to always keep contracts, and we are still in the process of regularization.
But despite all the technical problems we got involved in, I really wanted to talk about people, about the relationships with my neighbours, with my community. Because, in addition to the technique, which does present many difficulties, as a community network we propose to integrate this virtual network into the many other layers of relationships that already exist between people. And this is our biggest challenge.
L: We are not simply an internet provider, we want more than providing an internet service. We want to expand existing relationships using technology as a tool. So that the first cake recipe in my search is from Dona Nilda's cassava cake and not from a great YouTube chef. We would like a network where we won't have our information used to persuade us, where we do it our way, where we do not stay at the mercy of great producers of technology that shape our cultures and daily lives. A technique developed according to what we need here, where we live.
But that is us ...
Technology: a set of techniques, that is, methods and practical details essential for the execution of an art or science.
Here, art is life, and life is unique in every part of the world.
That is, it is impossible to "technify" in one single way.
M: My house, the headquarters of Portal sem Porteiras, has always been a place with good Internet connection.
We know that because we are testing the stability of this network daily. So before we installed more nodes, some people used to sit on the sidewalk in front of my house with their phones in hand. Even after setting up a user authentication system, this movement continued. That is because there is an application to circumvent the system that endangers our entire network.
The house is in a dangerous corner because it is not easy to see the cars making the curve to enter the neighborhood. In this corner, a lady used a cell phone every day.
It is common for people to limit themselves to using Facebook and WhatsApp as if it were the entire Internet, and providers encourage this practice while offering these services without cost. And with the lady it was not very different, she told me she always used these applications.
She stood almost in the middle of the street, where she thought the signal was better. The cars barely missed her and she didn't even care, she was very focused on the screen.
One day, my cat, meow, crossed the street. It couldn't wait for the car to swerve the way it did to avoid the lady, so the cat was hit and died.
Something wasn't working very well...
We started thinking about our responsibility.
"Will we be the ones who bring Facebook to the community ?" And what was the difficulty in communicating our purpose, that someone in the same community would need to ignore our attempts and risk all of our information and our cat
L: We started to focus more on the local network than on the internet connection itself. That way it would be easier to explain everything else, and we wouldn't be confused with a service provider. That's how we found a deeper sense purpose that pushed forward.
So, if we want more people involved, we also need to find what drives them. Aware of the gender gap in technology, we were concerned about taking the first step in that direction by sensitizing the women of our own community about the local network and the internet.
And so our journey begins.
We started to focus more on the local network than on the internet connection itself. That way it would be easier to explain everything else, and we wouldn't be confused with a service provider.
M: Tania, a feminist hacker, became the tutor of our group of women in this technological advance. Every month there is a meeting and a new topic. Finally, we managed to find a meaning that would connect our needs with our network: the need to recover narratives and put them back in the hands of women.
L: We created a project that seeks to prevent us from repeating this same pattern of technological creation, where the creator is the same heteronormative white man who reinforces narratives from his own point of view as truths. Because that breaks the democratic possibility of the internet.
L: The project is called Nós por Nós or us for us, this is because in Portuguese we use the same word NOS, for us and for nodes.The project was created to stimulate the role of women in the neighborhood since from the very beginning of the network creation. Talking about its operation, safe and healthy use of the Internet. From our local infrastructure microcosm, we show how the macrocosmic “Internet” works. That the cloud is actually a server and that it has owners. As we guide this use of the "Big Internet" we work together to create our local Internet: we are filling our server with our own content, with narratives and services directed by women.
At the end of the project we will have a website created by us that can be accessed from the neighborhood, through our own intranet. Showing that the Internet is not a mythological entity, but a tool used and fed by people. And why not us?
M: As the plans do not always happen as we would like, but as they should be, as soon as the project started, it triggered a lot of questions.We made an open call to women in the neighborhood, who would be responsible for creating consensual media content about other women in the territory - the researchers - finally creating a map.
L: But the people who came were women who somehow were already in our circle: women who arrived in the neighborhood in the last ten years, carrying children, dogs and a university degree, privileged women. Hum... .. it seems that the "us" is still a fragment of our community.
This women would be responsible for bringing technology to the neighborhood. The technique done by who already has access.
Are we being new colonizers and imposing our ideas as a supposed point of view of a whole community?
M: This question makes me think that there is much more to talk about during these interviews. We know that our reach within the community is limited. Calling an open meeting and spreading posters in the public square seems democratic, but ignores everything that implicitly separates us. Coexistence spaces imply power relations that are directly related to our privil
eges, it is a structured logic in our society, whether we like it or not.
L: That's why we choose the coffee with cake methodology. That is, go to the people's house and connect with them, and in this meeting, take our ideas about the local network, see where they agree and where they don't, what is in fact relevant to them.
M: We understand that the feminist look from one woman to another is a liberation from the patriarchal vision. But is it the last step? Certainly not ... When each being has the access, tools and support to create their own narrative, then we have reached a new stage in which projects like Us for Us will be superfluous.
We stopped trying to fix the world and started slowly, working with humility.
L: The word "Humildade" or humility has its origin in ancient Greek, which comes from HUMILIS, literally "he who is on the ground."
To walk the same terrain, find the common place between us, look for what is shared simply because it is human. A precious spark lights up at the time of that encounter and overcomes the abyss of separation.
That way we respect the rhythm already established and the way relationships are here in our neighborhood.
M: This virtual network adds up and comes to recover what the imposed technology dares to destroy: casual encounters, the exchange of recipes, home remedies, oral history, the fantastic as true.
Between one cup of coffee and another we make friends and seek to break the barriers between us.