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2018 Fellows

2018 Fellowships:

  • Discerning Mexico’s Digital Divide
  • The Avocado, the Butterfly, and the Beast:
    Migration as a morphological force

Discerning Mexico’s Digital Divide

Mariah Barber | Camila Huber Barbosa

Computerization, or the rapid adoption of digital devices and information communications technology (ICT) that’s transformed the world over the past decade, provides a new lens from which to observe the deeply embedded inequalities that far predicated the technology, across cities, nations, and global regions. Mexico, is no different, with there being a clear divide in access to technology that falls in place with the already in existence history of inequality between the cities of the north and those located in the south.

Although, Mexico’s digital divide resembles that of other nations, it stands apart in its policy approaches. Recently, it has deemed access to ICTs and the internet as a human right, through a constitutional amendment in 2013. While northern cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City are increasingly being promoted as tech hubs and smart cities, further legislation, such as the recent ruling to reduce telecom fees for low-income communities, is enabling smaller settlements, of primarily indigenous descent, to have access. An example is the village of Santa Maria Yaviche, in the state of Oaxaca, where the community raised funds to establish their own ICT network. Within these margins, is where Camila and Mariah seek two discover what does ameliorating a digital divide, truly mean for a nation, group of people, or a city.

By focusing on Guadalajara, Mexico City and Santa Maria Yaviche, Camila and Mariah strive to research beyond the obvious digital divide, and rather aim to develop a nuanced understanding of what access to ICT means in terms of other markers of urban development and equality, such as public participation. The plan to achieve such by mapping the actual ICT networks in Guadalajara and Mexico City, its existing public policies in internet access, the data usage on each social stratum, conduct interviews on internet consumption in different areas and income levels of the city and analyze the outcomes in terms of community engagement and leadership in comparison to Santa Maria Yaviche, a rural town in the state of Oaxaca, where a NGO has set – up a community-run phone network. They hope that such work can inform future urban designers and policymakers how to provide access to ICTs in a way that addresses the core of the problem: regional and urban inequality.

The Avocado, the Butterfly, and the Beast:
Migration as a morphological force

Daniel Padilla | Mariel Collard | Juan David Grisales | Prathima Muniyappa | Rhea Shah

Migrations are historical phenomena that transcend across modes, species, and landscapes. They are manifestations of transcontinental energy exchanges that catalyze for morphological changes in ecological, cultural, and urban conditions. Mexico has long been the site for large scale migrations. Mexican cities are created, shaped, and altered through their temporary appropriations by these migrant populations. This project investigates three species as they undertake a migration of epic proportions to unravel their interrelationships, their effects on Mexican cities and ecologies, and the underlying geo-political forces that define their form. Persea americana (avocado) from Michoacán to the Northeastern United States, Danaus plexippus (monarch butterfly) from the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán to Southern Canada and Homo sapiens (humans) from Central America to Mexico and the United States. By studying the migration as a condition of flux, the research hopes to reveal nuances about the nature of the border and the institutions that clarify its porosity or impermeability. The increase in labor and economic mobility have far-reaching effects on Mexican cities.

By moving across scales from the plant, to the animal and to the human, the project will seek to establish migration as a natural and historic condition. Migratory processes are growing not only in scale but in political, environmental, economic and social complexity. As much as this is an issue in flux, its imprint is embedded in the land, as mobilities affect, push, pressure and ultimately transform space. The movements supersede established physical borders and exist along a spectrum of elevations from the underground to the sky and of means of transportation across several ecosystems. Broadening the current ‘migrant crisis’, from humans to other species that navigate borders can allow us to reframe our understanding of the issue and envision new possibilities in the spaces they create. Studying where these mobilities collide and manifest allows for a reading of Mexican cities as places of exchange, of transition for capital, goods, knowledge and a multitude of species – human and non-human.

Four States have been identified and will be studied through fieldwork at a regional scale from determined anchor cities: Chiapas (Southern Region), Michoacan and Guanajuato (Central Region), and Coahuila (Northern Region). The investigation will be documented through drone videography at different elevations complemented with rigorous critical cartography and data collection. The narratives will be developed through a visual ethnographic research and interpersonal interviews with key actors. The findings will be compiled and narrated through film.