Experiment in Participatory Photo Mapping – Peru – Part I

Thursday 12th January 2012 | Author: tspena

By Gabriela Martinez, University of Oregon

One of the Media Map case studies examining the impact of donor interventions in support to independent media focused on Peru.  Participatory Photo Mapping, designed to complement this research conducted in Peru was carried out in the city of Cusco. According to the last census in 2007 the Department of Cusco had approximately 358,000 people; and the population is estimated now to be bordering 400,000. About 250,000 live in the city of Cusco. Cusco’s major industry is tourism and other service industries that support tourism. Cusco has three daily newspapers—El Comercio de Cusco, El Diario de Cusco, and El Sol. There are nine local well established private radio stations that operate in AM and FM. Two of them—Radio Tawantinsuyo and Radio Salkantay are known for having some of their programming in the local indigenous language, Quechua. Cusco has television stations affiliated with all major national networks as well as three local non-affiliated stations. There is no official count of the number of cabinas or Internet cafés in the city of Cusco, but these are pervasive with almost one every other three or four blocks. The cabinas are especially noticeable across the street from the Universities and other major institutions. The city has two major universities, public Universidad San Antonio Abad del Cusco and private Universidad Andina. The students I recruited to help with the PPM are anthropology students in their last year of studies at the Universidad San Antonio Abad del Cusco. Most of them are from working class background.

I first discussed the project with an anthropology professor who allowed me to pitch the idea to his students. Out of 35 students, ten volunteered to participate in the experiment—seven women and three men. They were excited to conduct a self-ethnography of their media consumption. Observing themselves and not others seemed a novelty to them.  They were also interested in focusing on media, something that they seldom analyze despite the fact that most of them expressed an interest in studying the effects of media on culture. I met with the ten students after they signed up to explain to them in more detail the Media Map Project and the reason why we wanted to do a PPM: in order to get a sense of what kinds of information sources people have available, and to understand how they choose their sources of information. I provided them the tasks verbally and on paper, and gave them a few days to start the work. However, when we met the next time to discuss how was the PPM going only six students showed up, and out of the six, only four had started the work. We had a recorded conversation in which mostly three of them (two women-Mirtha and Rebeca and a man-Fernando) dominated the discussion with questions to clarify their work on the PPM, and also responding to my questions about some of the few images they brought, and their thoughts on the state of information in general.

They all thought that mainstream media tends to be somewhat corrupt, and that in order to have accurate information one must navigate various TV stations, listen to diverse radio stations, and read several newspapers to come to conclusions given that media is bias and is responding to particular interests. They all agreed that in Cusco there was no serious or trustworthy journalism, and that most journalists in the city were not well trained neither they abide to high ethical standards. Fernando in particular was very outspoken about this issue. None of them were aware of donor-sponsored media (the focus of my case study), and none of them had heard of the outlets or programs operated by NGOs in Lima (as for example IDL-Reporteros or IDL-Radio), reflecting the disconnect between the capital and the provinces that I had identified in the case study. One of them had seen Enlace Nacional; however, she did not know it was a donor-funded program.

We met two more times, but on those two other times only three students came.  It was these students  who managed to complete and turn in most of the participatory work—Mirtha, Rebeca, and Nehemias. On the last meeting I recorded my conversation with Mirtha and Rebeca who spoke about their process, the things they learned, and their ideas about media in general. One issue that was mentioned a few times is that they did not log their use of Internet because during the days when they were gathering data they did not go to the cabinas. Neither Mirtha or Rebeca owns a computer, and only Nehemias has a laptop. However, both Mirtha and Rebeca indicated that sometimes they access information online although not as frequently as they use more traditional media.

Overall, I consider the experience a success given that the volunteers had not done this kind of work before. I think the major challenge is to recruit people willing to participate from beginning to end, and I believe that if this had been a part of a structured class or course work we could have had better results. However, what we have is a glimpse into how young people relate to information, and how they make sense of the information they consume.

Here is a draft crowdmap of the photo documentation of the PPM.

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