Sunday

History is more or less bunk

The title of this post is probably one of the two quotes most of us can rightly attribute to Henry Ford. The other being "People can have the Model T in any colour - so long as it's black". Here's the first quote in full:

"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today." (Chicago Tribune, 1916).

The reason for me quoting Ford is that I just finished reading Greg Grandin's book Fordlandia. Fascinating read for a Brazilian who knew nothing about the city envisioned and built by Henry Ford in the middle of the Amazon jungle. Given that Ford is considered the "father" of consumer culture, it's probably also an interesting read to all those who like to think critically about consumption.
Ford's plans to profit from a rubber plantation in Brazil were probably his greatest failure ever. But  Fordlandia, as the Amazonian village built on the margins of the Tapaj√≥s river was called, was not meant to be only a rubber source for Ford industries in the U.S. It was also one more of the several social experimental civilizing crusades Henry Ford undertook during his life.
Several reviews of "Fordlandia" have been published since it was released in 2009 (how can one ever catch up with all that there's out there to be read???) and the book was among the Chicago Tribune favorite books of 2009 and the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2009, and it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in the category history.
Instead of trying to provide an original review here, I offer instead a bit of what is missing in the book - visual and personal information. The few photos included are posed, almost institutional - most coming from the Ford archives. Of course Greg Grandin did an amazing job in the book, yet I couldn't help but wonder: who are these Brazilians whose life stories intertwine with the history of Ford's grandiose dreams of civilization?
So I did a little research (light speed netnography?) on the town' online community on Orkut (still more popular than Facebook in Brazil), and I'll post here what I found - as soon as I get a reply of my request for consent to post some pictures of the city as it is today.
In the meantime, check Grandin's interview on YouTube (part 1 and part 2) which contains excerpts of original footage of Fordlandia made by Ford's employees in the mid 1940's. Then come back soon for more!

Tuesday

Give work to those who want it

A colleague recent posted a link on his Facebook wall to the Samasource website. Samasource is a non-profit social business. They offer "microwork opportunities" to marginalized people, from countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, and Uganda. The management team works by mobilizing socially responsible companies, small businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and other professionals in North America to contribute by buying services from their workforce. Prices are fair, and the quality of the microwork and the allocation of resources earned through it are closely monitored by Samasource. 

A quick look at the list of services offered shows that many of these are services academics frequently outsource:
...data entry and digitization, web development, image and site moderation, application testing, video and audio services, project management, research assistance, virtual assistance...
All workers are trained and you can have transcription work, for example, delivered within 24 hours, for a very reasonable price. It's great for those who need the job done, and for those who want to do it. I plan to send some interviews to be transcribed very soon, and I write a post to let you know how it goes.
Here is a video of the founder of Samasource. Laila, speaking at TED. Take a look, give them some work, help make a difference :)


Leila Chirayath Janah: Ending Poverty in the Digital Age from TEDx Silicon Valley on Vimeo.