Prix Ars 2006 - Online submission

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Title of submitted project: MetaReciclagem

Year the work was created:

Type of project: Community-Projekt

Description of project: MetaReciclagem is not an independent collective. MetaReciclagem is not (and as for today never needed to be) a formal NGO - even though it is effectively an organization that is both non-governmental and nonprofit. MetaReciclagem does not define a group of people, but instead a name that some people use to identify and refer to an open methodology about the re-appropriation of technology to foster social transformation in different parts of Brasil. MetaReciclagem becomes concrete in three kinds of instances:
1)Spores are physical labs where people develop MetaReciclagem, both in technical and theoretical aspects. Since 2002, nearly ten different spores have been created in different cities.
2)MetaReciclagem Online Infrastructure is the environment where conversations about MetaReciclagem take place. It is responsible for the maintenance of a strong connection between all the main instances of such a decentralized project. It consists also of some online environments created to face the demand for interaction environments in which people can exchange information and practices related to MetaReciclagem.
3)ConecTAZes are permanent or temporary labs that “benefit” from MetaReciclagem actions. They range from a lowtech paper-and-pencil collaboration workshop to a Linux InstallFest or a video installation in an arts festival. ConecTAZes often (but not always) become or generate independent multimedia telecenters.

Running across all the three levels of MetaReciclagem are some special projects that require resources from more than one spore or that consist of plenty of ConecTAZes. Examples are the development of brasilian Ministry of Culture's Cultural Points – 600 multimedia centers spread around the country, the Ministry of Communication's GESAC program - satellite internet access - or the Casas Brasil project – 90 expanded telecenters, with multimedia infrastructure and computer recycling labs. MetaReciclagem actions and members influenced these three projects, among many others.

URL of the work:

Project Details

Objectives: The collective objective of MetaReciclagem, if it's possible to name one, is to develop a de-constructive approach to the technological discourse, promoting the re-appropriation of ICTs upon processes which lead to a closer relationship between people and technology. Most people join MetaReciclagem network because of a special interest in a particular subject related to technology or media appropriation, and soon starts collaborating in an emergent organization that allows the expansion of their own ideas. What most members of MetaReciclagem project have in common is a need to develop free (open) infrastructure and new uses to technology.

Language and context: MetaReciclagem is deeply related to different kinds of local context in Brasil: from projects based on the paradigm of digital inclusion to ones related to multimedia production and art interventions. For instance, a spore of MetaReciclagem has been created in a communitary center in Sacadura Cabral, a slum in Santo André, and maintained for almost an year by people from the community. Other spore of MetaReciclagem has been developed together with the Brasilian Organized Hip Hop Movement (MHHOB) in Teresina, Piauí, providing the infrastructure for the creation of three telecenters. Piauí is the poorest state in Brasil. On the other hand, MetaReciclagem is also planning an experimental laboratory inside USP, one of the largest universities in Brasil, and members of MetaReciclagem often provide the infrastructure for artistic interventions or collective celebrations (a.k.a. parties). And there are at least a dozen other places in which MetaReciclagem is being developed and applied.

Project History: MetaReciclagem was created as the infrastructure solution to a wide range of demands from Projeto Metá:Fora, a “collaborative incubator” that in 2002-2003 aggregated almost two hundred people all around Brasil around the development of projects that dealt with art, media, education and technology, under a perspective that knowledge should be free and re-usable. Its members came from different areas: journalists, artists, designers, software developers, social scientists and others. Nearly 25 projects have been created, structured and developed collectively. Among them, the first brasilian Tactical Media event (prov0s, 2002), a collaborative website about nonprofits and entrepreneurship (, an online publication on technology, economy and society (buzzine), research related to a de-centralized laboratory of language, narratives and art experimentation (memelab), public interventions (recicle1politico), webradio experiences and conecTAZes – multimedia celebrations, like neuromob :: book xchange, a party / bookcrossing.

During projeto Metá:Fora's short life span, we reached a point where we needed some kind of infrastructure to develop the projects. At the time, we were trying to bring the perspective of collaborative production and collective creativity to the world of digital inclusion, and we needed computers to test some hypothesis. We thought of asking for a donation to a north-american institution that got used computers from companies and delivered them to NGOs, but the bureaucracy was too complex. Someone reminded us that brasilian companies also dumped lots of computers every year, and the idea of MetaReciclagem was born: we would get those computers, recycle them using F(L)OSS and deliver them to social projects.

At first, we made an agreement with Agente Cidadão, an NGO that manages donations in São Paulo: we would take care of every technological device they received (from computers to old VCRs or faxes), in exchange for a place to work and internet connection. We then started working within their network of nearly one hundred NGOs. With time, we conquered other spaces: the Parque Escola (School Park), in Santo André, and a laboratory downtown São Paulo, in Olido Gallery.

Based on our defense of the idea of free knowledge, in a given moment we realized that MetaReciclagem was not a group identity for some people in São Paulo, but rather a de-centralized methodology that should be appropriated, replicated and re-created everywhere, by whoever would want to. Since then, MetaReciclagem has got many different faces: from a one-man spore with no computer in the coast of Bahia to a educational approach strategically adopted by huge projects developed by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Communications.

People: The access to MetaReciclagem project is completely open: we have a mailing list and a wiki, and most colllective decisions are made there. There are not fixed positions or responsabilities, as everything is de-centralized and self-organized. Hierarchy, if there is any, is based on reputation. Some of the people who created MetaReciclagem have some influence over the others, but the same is true for others who joined the network six months ago. There's usually a group of nearly a dozen engaged people, who dedicate a good part of their lives to develop MetaReciclagem, another twenty or thirty who collaborate, say, once a week or twice a month, and the other hundred lurkers. But these numbers vary from time to time. The mailing list (today) has 158 members, and plenty of other people develop MetaReciclagem in the spores.

Lessons learned: Since the project started, we have faced a lot of difficulties. Perhaps the worst is the fact that we developed a way of organizing that has no legal counterpart. We took a while to decide for an emergent approach: there is a set of principles on what is MetaReciclagem, based on which anyone can decide whether what they do is or ain't part of the project. The advantage of that positioning is that we were able to be present in different organizations: some NGOs, one or other companies, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Communications, universities, the city administration of São Paulo. If we were to incorporate into one NGO, we could not have the autonomy to be in all those places. We organized MetaReciclagem not as an organization, but a movement instead. The downside is that we always have problems in getting funding, as we have no legal existence as a group. That makes us too dependent on political issues of specific partnerships. We are not able to force collective decisions, because in every instance we are, we're more individuals than a group. Sometimes, the fragmentation overcomes the threshold of understandable complexity. But then again, there are more advantages: since we don't have a static structure, there is no routine, and creative dynamics is maintained. We are always re-inventing what MetaReciclagem is and what it does. The collective innovation is an ongoing process.

Technical Information

Technological Basis: Since the beginning, MetaReciclagem decided to use free and open source software for everything, not only for economical reasons, but because of its flexibility and freedom to understand the code. It is true even for uses that are not that easy of software: for the autolabs project, a project on mediatic alfabetization, and later for the Pontos de Cultura project, MetaReciclagem members had to struggle against the resistance of people who were already used to buy pirated software to their projects. There was always the excuse that using pirated software was a tactical, protest use of technology, with which we never agreed: teaching 300 youngsters to use pirated software, we're creating a new generations of slaves to the proprietary software. If we use free and open source software instead, we are bringin more people to its development, even if their only contribution is test software.
In that sense, all the projects we have developed are based on GNU/Linux environments and f(l)oss. Audio workstations are configured with Jack + Ardour, rezound, audacity, hydrogen and many others; graphic workstation with scribus, sodipodi, the gimp, blender and inkscape; and video workstations with kino, cinelerra, jahshaka and others. The telecenters often use a TC-TS (Thin Client - Thick Server) to optimize the use of old computers. All of our online environments are developed with free scripts for LAMP, such as drupal, wordpress, scuttle, mailman and others.

Solutions: : MetaReciclagem is not exactly a software, but a de-constructive approach to all possibles uses of technology, including software. Our uses of software usually look for the development of different ways to make people talk to each other. In that sense, a telecenter running on Linux with instant messenger clients or a mailing list available on the web are the same thing.

Implementations: Our online environments are available on the world wide web:
Local implementations of MetaReciclagem tech methodology can be found in all the current spores and ConecTAZes: Galeria Olido, in São Paulo downtown; Centro de Referência do Movimento Hip Hop, in Teresina; Bailux in Arraial d'Ajuda; the development center for the Pontos de Cultura project, west zone of São Paulo; IP media center, in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro; the Humanist Place in Santa Cecília, São Paulo; and many others.

Users: Anyone willing to create different uses of information technology – from a charity aiming at providing internet access for its community to artists who wish to experiment the limits of technology and human interaction.

License: Everything we develop is published under open licenses, even non-technical production. All the documentation in our wiki is under a GNU-FDL license, including the projects, methodologies and texts.

Statement of Reasons: Because we are successfully influencing thousands of people about how to handle technology in a more human way and made them aware that technology is not a black magic box (it might be, but then everyone can be its wizard).

Planned use of prize money: MetaReciclagem, as a network, has many needs. The most important are developing further the methodology and ellaborating documentation. We have already started to draft an outline of the Green Book on MetaReciclagem, but we must provide ways for people to dedicate to it. If we get prize, the Green Book would be product of the prize money.