Marcela Guerra from Coolab, Brazil: "Now women feel safe to explain technology in a context where before they did not even feel safe to ask"

By APCNews 12 December 2019

This is the fourth in a series of interviews we will be publishing until the end of the year that highlight the journey, struggles and achievements of women doing work in community networks. We will document their experiences with the intention to inspire more women to get involved in this field. This month we are featuring Marcela Guerra.

Marcela is a representative of Coolab in Brazil for the community networks learning grant initiative implemented through the "Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives" project.

Marcela is a craftswoman with a focus on technological appropriation and object-making through workshops and immersive experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in social sciences from UNESP in São Paulo, and is part of the collective Sítio do Astronauta, which investigates and develops non-disciplinary technologies that amplify learning skills and enable artistic expression. Currently, Marcela is the chair of the Portal sem Porteiras Association and a member of its communication council, where she explores experimental methodologies to help enable the community to develop a critical sense in the processing of information produced by new media.

Here are her responses to the questions we are asking all these inspiring women who are bringing connectivity to underserved communities:

APCNews: What is the most interesting reaction you have received from a community when doing the work?

Marcela Guerra: Women in the community approach me as if I can solve any problems with their mobile devices. In general, the problem has nothing to do with the infrastructure of the community network itself, but I like that some issues come to me in this way, because I believe that there is a spontaneous space for questioning. Here where I live people use cell phones a lot, without knowing exactly what the scope of this is, so those moments where I am approached on the street or at neighbourhood parties to talk about technology is rich for my work as a whole, is where we establish a more humane relationship with all this and where I can better understand how and why people around me have used the internet.

APCNews: Can you share a moment or experience where you overcame structural/cultural gender barriers while working on community networks?

MG: Fortunately, our community network counts on the active participation of more women than men, and our work in the women's circle has further increased this number. I remember a very significant meeting where Hiure tried to explain to a group of 20 people what a local server is, and most of the men were having difficulty understanding, and it was the women who made accessible links to explain to them, because now they had this baggage from the women's circle to do this, they felt safe to explain in a context where before everything seemed so far away that they did not even feel safe to ask.

APCNews: What is a gender stereotypical comment you received and what did you do about it?

MG: I don't remember ever receiving any comment in this regard.

APCNews: What do you enjoy most about your work on community networks?

MG: What I like most about working with community networks is being able to access people in this very sensitive place, which is their involvement with technologies. I like to be able to enter this space of conversation in order to be able to deal with themes that create the sense of the networks, that is, what is community, what is autonomy, how we understand and disagree in this virtual space and why we should, in such a small community, reduce the banal uses of virtual technologies through face-to-face and human relationships, and convince ourselves that we can think of new tools that will help us to organise ourselves better, instead of just consuming tools that limit our context. I like all the exchange, to learn technology from them in a broader sense: what are the techniques that over the years have facilitated the survival of these people in this specific context? I think the internet has to be approached in the same way, as something we can shape and adapt.

APCNews: Thank you, Marcela!



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