Salus Sage
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Janastu / Servelots Narrative report for APC 2019

Our Long Term Objectives

  • Enabling real connectivity and information sharing among two under-recognised cohorts of the digital divide: non-literates, and girls and young women.
  • To make tools accessible and familiar, by demystifying the technology for underexposed communities.
  • To place the means of communication outside the for-profit marketplace that has mostly consumed internet platforms and appropriated and commodified content. All the devices, software, and tools that will be used and developed are open source. We utilize only interactive platforms that are easily available, such as common web browsers, Raspberry Pi and smartphones.
  • To stimulate meaningful participation within the local ecosystem. While the instantaneous, global reach of the internet is perhaps its most spectacular achievement, these tools help neophytes to connect locally and to engage deeply at a relatively small scale.

The Backpack Radio - Made with ❤️ COW Radio

Ramya from Namma School Radio carrying the BACKPACK-RADIO

This year the back pack radio will be just about a year old. Girish, “The radio man” chose to carry one to the APC project’s inception meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the first time Shalini and Girish are travelling internationally, with all excitement and equipments they set sail to meet people from all over the world working with community networks, to learn from their experiences and stories.

Equipments of Namma school radio for demos

Going out to see the Bomas of Kenya, and also meeting Imbirikyani indigenous people having conversations with them. We also showed them our backpack radio, set it up the demo. They started their own community radio group, The Osiram Community Radio and Media makers. The Enkijape Primary school children looked so excited, and given the chance just got into playing with the radio devices, they started their own Moses community radio, with the geometry pi and Backpack pi. In demystifying the technology, there is lot of scope to get the communities to own their technology. »Kenya photos by Girish«

The Backpack radio is built using COW Radio whose other incarnations are Geometry Pi, Phonebooth Pi all recording kiosks embedded in daily use objects of the people here, and one Studio Pi project, which is an avatar that enables communities to collectively participate in edit, narrate and publish their own stories and here publish doen’t mean to internet or WWW but to a local server supported by Wifi mesh networks.

Hypermedia Archives

Maaya - for AV storytelling

When internet tools are made accessible to an unserved cohort, we invariably see a rapid flow of creative input that deeply enriches not only that specific community, but encourages more broad participation as well. We fully expect that development of tools in support of meaningful non-literate participation will provide traction for other under-served populations

As part of our long term interests in story telling and how annotations can help in composing visual narratives. Re-story our earlier versions of the annotation mashups, evolved into Maaya sometime in April 2019, as a proof of concept. Our vision is to provide tools that enable, Talking as a way of publishing, Seeing as a way to socialize, Listening as a way to discover, Storytelling as a way to nourish, Interaction as a way to livelihoods, Making as a way of self determination, Re-narration as a way to interconnect, Creativity as a way to be responsive, and more ways of expression…

It was time to make some stories to test. First set of stories we made were,

Bookmark Audio Fragment

The Hypermedia Archives are centered around our long dream of semantic web and annotations, via the web annotation standards. Gerbern Treora visited us in the autumn of 2019 and fanned this flames with his ideas. He is already a contributor to the Apache Annotator project that’s currently in incubator. The ideal goal of the community’s effort is to build tools ground up for browsers so developers can easily implement web annotation application and services. Like this one that Gerbern and our team hacked and eventually published, a mozilla browser extension - Bookmark Audio Fragment That initialises a audio player in the browser with enhanced features that enable to highlight and bookmark a timefragment of an audio, and the bookmark can saved in the browser’s bookmarks storage, for retreival later. This was a good start, and we hit a lot of dead ends but that didn’t stop us, and that’s what i believe that made Gerbern chase this so hard. The guy was sick with dengue for a week, all pale and weak, but he kept his laptop with him, and kept thinking of coding. Never seen one like that, so this one is with a lot of :heart: from Janastu.

Community Network Exchange

At IGF Indonesia

Common Room Networks foundation

We can’t stop from mentioning enough from our community network exchange activities supported by APC. Sanketh, our enthusiastic maker interested in makerspaces joins to the trip to Ciptagelar along with Girish. They get to attend the regional IGF conference along with the Common Room Networks foundation. Girish had already met Gustaff who is one of the founders, but Sanketh was probably meeting him for the first time. We participated in the IGF Indonesia workshop. It’s also particularly very exciting to see a philosophical similarity in our goals to enable rural communities and livelihoods with technology for sustainability. You can see this beautiful illustration created together at the workshop. After the conference we visited Ciptagelar around their harvest festival with celebrations and traditional rituals involved in the harvesting of rice that’s most sacred in the society here. We spent a few days here under the honored hospitality of Kasepuhan Ciptagelar King and met Awinet group who is able to provide internet via their gateway service.

Pathardi Community Network exchange

Visit from Sarbani and Vienna Workshop

Vienna Artful Infrastructre helped us present our work more holistically as we discussed the issues we have of infrastructure in addition to presenting, at location (Devarayanadurga and iruWay at Durgadahalli), the trinity of natural handmade crafts with maker spaces, community mesh-radio and archives for storytelling. » Program pdf «

Janastu’s visit to Pathardi and Mumbai

It was pouring cats and dogs. This monsoon saw a good swell of rain that most parts of Maharashtra, North Karnataka were flooded, Many people and livestock had to be evacuated. In the midst of all this we still dare to go to Pathardi village in Maharashtra to meet the community women. Shalini and Girish happened to visit Mumbai and Pathardi a few times for training on mesh network and deploying services for Photo upload, Radio on raspberry pi’s. In the first visit Girish had already shown the Bagpack Pi, and we were able to do some recording with the community to make them familiar about the devices. This visits has helped us better understand the context of the pathardi community and their livelihoods. We are looking forward for our future engagements to build suitable technology infrastructe for this community.

:::info Don’t miss to see the images and videos in the gallery where the parts of road is washed away. ::: Photo gallery » Photos by Girish «

At Deccan Living Labs Bidar

Deccan Living Labs (DLL) - Currently the DLL network has over 300 individuals and organisations. This network includes women across diverse age groups, from various backgrounds such as homemakers, village elders, artists, craftsperson, journalists, writers, educationists, academics, activists, community leaders, government officials, entrepreneurs, and most importantly commoners/residents in Bidar, Gulbarga, Bijapur and beyond. We get a head start with this experience and the connections to evolve a story annotation process, and to contribute to designs that connect to the sentiments of the community.

With Deccan Living Labs in Bidar, Karnataka, Janastu is partnering with team Yuva, a local youth group, who work with local crafts people and various women and non-binary communities on archiving their cultural heritage.

Janastu is providing tech support for setting up local WIFI mesh services and applications and services related to their archives work.

Shalini A was hosted by Dilip Patil, Dheeraj Joshi, Supriya and Vinay Kumar of DLL on 27th December 2019 – 28 December 2019, to provide training and deployment of nodes.

Photos and Video links

Anthillhacks

The dates for Anthillhacks were being finalised, December 07th to 20th it is. A 14 day camp? i kept thinking to myself and was expecting more to come.

With the event days getting closer, we had to also look into other things that we needed to do. First up a website anthillhacks.in with our sincere thanks to the hillhacks community, we forked their site’s source code. Meanwhile, Dinesh was working on the content. We opened public registrations through and co-ordinating with the invites, planning logistics. Social media promotion on Twitter, Facebook, Mastodon with Mani’s help for managing, making posters and other content.

Yes, it was the perfect season to be around in Devarayanadurga, our campsite at the beautiful terraces now named Anterras by our community. From Buffalo herding to heritage and bio-diversity treks, crafts workshops, folk storytelling, singing, music, games and celebration for setting up our own local net, DurgaNet From devarayanadurga to durgadahalli covering Halekote where our basket weavers hangout at Crafter Space. Many of us have previous experiences in camps, we also had many for whom it was just the first time. so it was fun and a lot to learn.

Also don’t miss to watch what Alekhya Daspet had to say,

Spotlight on AnthillHacks by Alekhya from Servelots - Janastu on Vimeo.

While on camp site, we all made a a collective decision to start every day with a short summary narration by all participants about the previous day. First few days we recorded with our phones. This was then used in the Maaya software to make a A/V presentation. Watch the summary of Day 2 here. We had interesting “Talks on the Terrace” in the beautiful terraces of this Devarayanadurga hills.

Pradyumna, who just finished his masters from IIIT - Bangalore in Digital Societies, spoke about Gig economies / Platform economies where software companies and algorithms are gaming peoples aspirations and dreams. And interesting talk with interactive Q&A with participants Upasana also had lot to add to this dimension, also the parallel to this last decade was may be call centre’s and so on.

Uma Mudengudi, Dean R and D, Professor at ECE, KLE Tech University, Hubbali, Karnataka spoke about her life stories and how she transformed all challenges that she had to face as a women to dare to aspire, dream and achieve. One anecdote to quote, she was doing her PHD in Delhi, while she was a mother and taking care of nursing children, writing exams and juggling between the two while her husband was back in the home town couldn’t have stopped her, and she says so which such lightness is inspiring to young women. That definitely struck a lot of interesting questions from our participants.

The camp site at Anterras while having discussions over tea

Anu is with us helping with the crafts, while she uses a smartphone, she still doesn’t consider herself as a techincally abled person. She says about the first few days of anthillhacks while she participated in the Libre router setup session with Nico Pace from Altermundi community.

[name=Anu says…] Being a non technical person it was interesting to learn and gain knowledge on consideration towards community networking in building connectivity easier within the local people and their ethnicity. The libre router is a mesh networking weather-proof wifi consisting of 3 antennas in which 2 directional antennas are pointed towards a clear line of sight area for internet connectivity or create a hotspot that enables to connect between one other devices. Since i already acknowledged my non technical skill, i hope none is expecting any apology of my faults, and can may be blame Nico. Irrespective of that i appreciate Nico’s illustrative and engaging sessions, where he did not shy away from simplifying many technical concepts. By late afternoon Nico and team headed towards the top of the hill at ITB (Travellers bunglow) to deploy the wifi mesh and some of us remain at the basecamp to check on the connectivity. Every evening after dinner Cynthia and we had come up to have a small session talk for 5 to 10 minutes to wrap up the day.

At the end of Day 4 at Anthillhacks - An intense learning about Libre Routers and Libre Mesh Software, Installation, building and deploying. The fun part was climbing the walls to reach the top of the Old traveller’s bungalow probably built by the british and more than a 100 years old. Since, the property is now in ruins and vandalized, but with a clear line of sight to halekote. Watch what Nico says here,

LibreRouter: the why? by Nicolás Pace from Servelots - Janastu on Vimeo.

Router setup on top of one of the villager’s Ramya who volunteers with Namma School Radio

Meanwhile parallely there were many treks downhill to reach IruWay, and while on the way experience for oneself the rich bio-diversity of the place, the monuments from historic past hidden away from plain sight. Sometimes accompanied by the grazing buffalos and goats, which felt surreal to have been connecting to Deepti’s talk on Following the Sheep and Shepherds.

At Iruway there were workshops with crafts woman Siddava, Madhu at Crafter Space where some people weaving for first time, but using these natural materials like the water reed for weaving was for all the people might have been the first time, not that it matters. Philosophy Musings with Mukunda Rao, Camp fire and Music at the Flying Turtle Amphitheatre by various artists including Raja and Moon from the Agnii team and Prabhir, a patachitrakar a traditional art from the east part of India who all spent few days with us at the camp.

Back at the camp there were other workshops and interactive sessions on Making your own Natural colors and natural cleansers and shampoos that we can use to was from our hair to car which simply works and eco-friendly, and time to get out of the propaganda of th soaps and chemicals that’s polluting our waters. Ram who used to lead the Free Software Movement of Karnataka earlier and now works as full time DevOps lead a session on data privacy for non-technical audience with interesting insights to apps and alternatives for current social media and other things we do on the internet. You can listen to the participants mentioning about all this and more here in the summary of Day 5 at Anthillhacks

For the grand celebration of the full moon night, we had Shilpa and Aditya founders of the Urban Folk project, Shilpa lending her voice to sing Kannada folk songs of resistance, love, strife, unity and plurality. These songs are from the north karnataka region, and traditionally sung by the Trans communities in this region whose living would depend on singing in temples and community events. The Urban Folk project is an initiative to archive folk art forms in Karnataka. And archive not in sound files, but by getting this music and songs back to the people, the marginalized, the deprived, and for everyone of us. Also along we had the Tatvapada singers group, who are from a nearby village and sing devotional songs entire night of Full Moon every month. When all the guests and participants retired after a long night, the singers didn’t bring the curtains down, the show went on till the sunrise.

An then the next morning was CNx Day 0 in collaboration with DEF, Gram Marg, BAIF, … With all the participants arrived from all over the world, there were many sessions and workshops throughout the day until dinner. Cynthia lead a session on Gender sensitivity.

ASORCOM community network exchange in Chin state Myanmar

Beautiful scenic valleys in Chin state. Photo credits: Michael Suantak

Our visit to ASORCOM (Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities) in the end of December coinciding with the Christmas - New Year, and celebrative mood in the air. After spending time with Michael and Mary at #Anthillhacks and #CNx2019 we were very eager to meet them at their home and with their community. Sanketh went just before christmas, and Shalini reached just before new year. My new friend there I.T, daughter of Michael, If not for her shalini would have had to deal with a lot of social awkwardness, not going to rant anymore about this.

I can’t say if it’s just my feeling but am sure i am not going to expound on facts that the hilly regions and small villages in the valleys of this location resembles much of Halekote in Devarayanadurga, Janastu’s community network lab.

At the Chin State

The recording Pi 0 - made with COW radio, embedded in the Hand crafted clutch was a eye grabber. The children loved to play with it, record their voices and use phones to listen to their voice, resulting in group activities commenting and annotating as they go on recording. Michael saw his community’s interest in the gadget and thought will be a added value to have in his repository. He immediately bought all the devices sanketh had for testing and demo purposes.

ASORCOM has it’s own localised problems, that drives them in bringing up creative solutions. One major challenge for them in running the community radio and networks is electricity. In the absence of power grids the communities rely heavily upon alternative power solutions like solar energy, generators, hydropower. Although it’s feasible but they can’t be reliadble during certain climatic conditions, and they come with their own vulnerabilities.

Apart from the technical challenges, the fact that we also acknowledge is that the community mobilization and engagement is the hard nut of this complex interwoven conditions of local communities. Moving beyond old structures or patterns of governance to participatory or new models of engagement is key and can’t be enforced but only be nurtured.

Now this is going to be a new beginning of the end, with a long term engagement with ASORCOM to see how we can architect solutions with mobile & handy radio’s to their current publishing workflows. Also the enhancements or customizations that they would need for their usecase.

A neverending Story

Humans are the animals who tell stories. We share information and ideas within and among communities. We talk to each other; and we always have.

After reading this short story come back here for continuation (updates).

tags: Documentation Report Annual 2019