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"Mobile Voices: Storytelling Tools for Social Change" - HASTAC10 Report

"Mobile Voices" was among my most favorite HASTAC10 webinars. The entire session was held online and the team did a great job of utilizing variety of different virtual tools (chat room, webcam, online video, slides, what have you!) to successfully deliver their presentation.  It was a kind of session that left you with an urge to activism, social change and greater good!


Here are some of my notes from the session:

Mobile Voices or "VozMob" is an academic-community project between USCs Annenberg School for Communication and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California (IDEPSCA), a nonprofit serving low-income Latino immigrants in LA.

"VozMob" is an open-sourced mobile storytelling platform designed for low-wage immigrants in Los Angeles so that they can publish stories about their lives and their communities directly from their mobile phones. "VozMob" allows users to take photographs, record audio or video, attach descriptions, and send them to the site ( directly from their phone via multimedia messaging (MMS).

IDEPSCAs Day-Laborer Community Job Centers provide a humane way to look for work and offer a learning environment through literacy, English classes and information about health, labor and immigrant laws. These centers also function as a public safety alternative to soliciting employment on the street corners and suffering from severe exploitation and unsafe working conditions.

Mobile Voices was created because of the anti-immigrant movement that has been carried over to the Internet.  Shocking how when you Google search for day laborer, the top result is an anti-immigrant hate site!

Digital Access Inequality within immigrant communities in Los Angeles prevents them from representing themselves.

A survey of 58 day laborers at 5 worker centers has revealed that 78% of the community carry a cellphone. Workers use their cellphones mainly for work and family related conversations and they tend to not use the phones other than receiving/making calls.

The vast access to cellphones prompted the project members to think of producing multimedia projects that use mobile technology "to give voice to the voiceless."

IDEPSCA already had a popular communication project that made a newspaper "Jornada XXII" so the group decided to use mobile stories as a supplemental material for the newspaper.

Project members started to hold weekly workshop with a group of workers to learn about mobile tools, brainstorm desired features, and discuss online blogging platforms.

The "VozMob" system is designed to work with cheap phone (no data plan needed, pre-paid okay), and users can call, text, or post photos, audio or video files via MMS.

The design of the website is also participatory with all the volunteers collectively deciding on the layout, colors, etc. (Soon the new website will be released which will incorporates all the stories, interaction, and even GPS technology).


Few of the very interesting workers stories:

1- Madelou: (Mandelou delivered a passionate speech, powerful and touching)

Mandelou: "Mobile Voices is the window to the universe. Anyone who listens to the stories can see pieces of the lives of many of the immigrants in the US."

Mandelou: "We're here to say that we are not a public charge, we are important resources, we support this country economically. Mobile Voices is an opportunity to show the world that all humans are born free, but it's the circumstances that don't let them develop their abilities."

Mandelou: "We need to tell the world that we need some kind of legalization to reach better standards of living, and to stop all these organizations that work towards limiting whom they don't consider humans."

2- Manuel's Story "Hands"

Manuel: "My story shows the sacrifice with which our grandparents and parents came to this country."

Manuel:  "We've come to realize the difficulty of people who immigrated from other countries where they havent been heard and havent had opportunities to provide for their families or to give their children a good education."

Manuel: "We haven't seen a good future for immigrant people, they experience mistreatment in a flawed system."

3-  Ranferi's Story "Green Gardeners in Action" (He wasnt able to participate in the session because he got a day labor job for Friday-Saturday)

4- Diana's Story "Fiesta San Simon"

5- Alma's Story "Faith and Hope" about the day laborers who come everyday to look for work at the centers:

6- Marcos' Story "Graffiti: a Social Phenomenon"



Q&A section of the presentation was extremely engaging and to a certain degree emotional. Volunteers were excited about the future effects of sharing their stories with the world and enthusiastic about their ability to depict aspects of their lives that mainstream media has underrepresented.

Do you keep hope that things will improve now that president Obama has promised he will do something about it?

Madelou: "We always have hope as immigrants that a president will make change. But we can't wait we have to do our partwe have to fight consistently to make this change. Hope is the last thing that dies."

Why do you participate in Mobile Voices?

Alma: "We should focus more on our community to unite ourselves. Communication is so important. Together we can achieve what we want: migratory reform for all."

Madelou: "My life goal as Paulo Freire says is to break the silence. This project let's us demonstrate our way of life. Mobile voices is to announce our way of life that other media outlets don't show."

Madelou: "The desire to say we are here, and these are our stories and our opinions. That is why I participate."

Madelou: "Our goal is to show the world that immigrants are here to create a better world. They can see what we are doing, and how we are organizing to be heard. That's the impact we are looking for."









Very cool project. I see that it's based off of Drupal, but I don't see a download link for the actual VozMob platform or source code. Is it really open source? Know where to get the code?




Hi Mike,

Thanks for your interest. Yes, it's open source. You can get the code on github at

that link is listed on the site under along with other vozmob related resources ...I guess we should make it more obvious ;-)


Omar Khan NQ Mobile

Omar Khan NQ Mobile