The Mobile Phone as a Megafone: Immigrants Telling Stories in Their Own Words

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 17, 2012

Every Saturday, a group of Queens, New York residents gathers to learn how to use mobile technology to tell their stories. Megafone, a mobile-based citizen media project, provides an outlet for groups that are often not covered by traditional media organizations. In Queens, a group of Chinese immigrants use Megafone to document their daily lives and experiences in New York City.

Antoni Abad, the founder and director of Megafone, started in 2003 when camera phones first started appearing on the market. He realized that having a low-cost, portable documentation tool would create new opportunities for capturing every-day life – especially for marginalized communities that either are portrayed negatively in the media or aren't covered at all.

Built on the Open Data Kit platform, Megafone content is directly uploaded from mobile devices to the Megafone website. The project has been in operation since 2004 in a number of countries, each time focusing on a marginalized group such as Roma in France, disabled people in Barcelona, or taxi drivers in Mexico. Abad says that by using Megafone, "Communities that suffer stigma have the opportunity to counteract the media and prejudices they encounter in society." 

The Queens Megafone project focuses on daily life for the participants, to post interviews and news about what they see, hear, and experience in their lives. Each week, in a meeting at the Queens Museum of Art, they review how to use the technology and talk about how they have used the tool, focusing on tagging content, posting media, and using the ODK workflow. Below is a video of Abad and some of the Megafone participants explaining how the project works and why they were drawn to it. 

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