Liliana Gil Sousa

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New School U.

Grant number

Gr. 9744

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Russo de Sousa, Liliana G., New School for Social Research, New York, NY - To aid research on 'Make-do Innovation: Reconfiguring Technological Improvisation in Brazil,' supervised by Dr. Hugh Raffles

Preliminary abstract: In Brazil, a series of public and non-governmental initiatives has drawn on long-standing idioms and practices of improvisation to promote electronics and programming skills, and inspire new modes of problem-solving. In line with larger attempts to revalue vernacular forms of innovation, a key narrative underlying these initiatives proposes that experiences of precarity contain a repertoire of techniques that can generate more sustainable engagements with technology for the future. How are popular and provisional practices turned into problem-solving tactics for the 21st century? This project investigates how idioms and practices of improvisation have been increasingly incorporated into innovation initiatives. Anchored in a community-oriented technology center in the periphery of São Paulo, I will use participant observation, in-depth interviews, and media and archival research to understand how practices commonly considered marginal to sophisticated technological production have been appropriated, recreated, and commodified to remake dominant models of technological development. By examining how proposals of improvised innovation have been imagined, materialized, and disputed by a range of actors — including technoactivists, favela residents, municipal leaders, and policy experts — this project advances academic debates about the status of situated understandings of technoscience, the uses and values of improvisation as a process and category, and the relationship between skill and the recognition of expertise.