Tech for Forests


Building communities, fighting predatory infrastructures and developing open-source software

Narrira Lemos de Souza

Translation: Gavin


On the 9th of September 2022, the people of the city of São Paulo, in Brazil’s southeast, looked up to find the sky over their heads covered with a gray layer different from the usual pollution, as a burning smell seeped into their homes. Approximately two years ago a similar event turned day into night in the same capital city: forest fires were burning in the Pantanal1, in 2020, and the smoke and soot took over the skies, decreased the visibility in flight routes and conjured up an apocalyptic scenario – a situation scary enough due to the then recent pandemic. However, the September 9 2021 sky is not the same2. In the end, the day did not turn into night, but the cover up of the biggest increase in deforestation of the last 15 years3 of the forest area of Legal Amazônia did take place.

Without the support of the State apparatus in fighting deforestation in the region’s public areas, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have developed projects4 promoting the strengthening of the local and indigenous communities, aiming at the protection of the forest and of its defenders. The actions also aim at the promotion of security strategies for the indigenous peoples, considered by the UN as the best forest guardians in Latin America and the Caribbean5.  The need to foment parallel activities, through the mapping and georeferencing of the region and the expulsion of predatory and illegal agents for the protection of the region’s forests, is carried out as a response to the sustained hollowing out of the State organizations in charge of the safekeeping of such areas. On the other hand, actions aiming at increasing the protection of the forest guardians also become a necessity, because as the state agencies decreased their support to the communities, an increase in violence was noted in the last few years, an surge of 48% of violent incidents against indigenous people in the Legal Amazônia, according to a 2021 report by Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi)6.

Besides, tools came to be developed and applied by other organizations, national or foreign, in order to collaborate with the mapping and denunciation of deforestation activity in the region, as is the case of the RainForest application, which has been used in the training of indigenous people in the Amazon region, especially in the State of Roraima. Training and joint formulation of the needs and of the use of equipment in the communities are fundamental aspects for the projects’ success: they are communities that know the forests, who monitor them in real time and who are able to share the needs specific for the protection of the region. The use of many tools still demand breaking a few barriers: lack of access to the internet, learning about the use of technologies, a critical gaze over what such tools can offer and the understanding of what their limits are.

Thus, in this research we tried to converse with a few of the projects that work and/or have worked with such aims in mind among Brazilian indigenous communities in the regions of Legal Amazônia, Cerrado and Atlantic Rain Forest. In our collective conversations, we invited people from the Hermes, Mapa Guarani Digital, Alertas+, Baobáxia and Coolab projects. Although we also did try contact with Fuxico, we did not manage to establish a communication channel with the people who maintain it, and we carried out individual conversations with Proteja Amazônia.

The Fuxico project was a proposal developed by a feminist hacker group offering communication networks linking communities by means of the Mesh technology, based on an open source tool called PirateBox, which they have adapted and used, composing their own philosophy7 regarding software use and license. In the same sense, Baobáxia, of Rede Mocambos, and Coolab projects, also resort to the use of open source tools to create, adapt and provide communication networks to communities. On the other hand, Hermes is an open hardware and software technology for the conversion of radio signal into internet signal, thus promoting the possibility of connection to the internet with little financial resources and by adapting tools that the communities already have at hand.

Other groups and projects bearing a perspective of closer action with communities in mapping, georeferencing, denunciations and recording of deforestation activities and other attacks, were also contacted in the research. These are Guarani Digital Map, developed by the Conselho de Trabalho Indigenista (CTI)8; Alertas+, developed by Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)9;  and Proteja Amazônia10, developed by the Proteja collective.

In this essay, I strive to demonstrate (1) the relations between the communities of users and of developers of free and open-source software – F/OSS; (2) the implementation and the impact of what we will call here predatory infrastructures; and (3) the paths of failure and success in the development of open source digital infrastructures that seek alliance with forest defenders. In order to do so, l investigate the concepts of open source, communities, digital and predatory infrastructures, as well as study cases and excerpts from collective talks in the “community calls” carried out with the groups, or of individual interviews with those maintaining such projects.

It starts on the internet

It was a sunny afternoon in Alter do Chão, a district of the municipality of Santarém, in the State of Pará, Brazil, where the river Tapajós flows. After spending the morning talking with the defenders of the lands and of the territory about the dangers they face, we reflected on how effective digital security could be for bodies threatened by firearms. This is a common question when one works with technology and the defenders of the land and of the territory, an aspect to which we should always be attentive and alert to as educators, since the line that separates safety from paranoia is tenuous and present.

In this savage effort to let go of colonized knowledge, we sought various non-oppressive learning technologies and we found in listening an essential process for learning, the “making with” as a radical technology for liberating learning (hooks, 1994). Radical because primarily it rests on the process of unveiling the world of oppression, committed to practice and to its transformation; and also because it aims to transform the oppressive reality of the apprentices in the process of liberation. Bearing in mind that the liberation process is not static, but a constant search instead.

There are various names for the learning and teaching methodology – we could speak of participating ethnography, of an anthropological gaze or one of contextual inquiry, with a scientific-technical support from market research, but we will stick to the “doing with” as a pedagogical perspective. This is a combination of research and learning methods, and of the construction of affections between facilitators and participants, a study that mixes anthropological ethnography, liberating education and feminist intersectionality. 

Once the methodology was defined, we tackled other challenges: leaving the camp of the body and of the territory to enter the area of the digital or of the digital technologies and infrastructures. The digital sounds intangible, untouchable, whereas the territory is the ground, the ground of stability. Approaches in this scenario could be both casting a gaze on the history of such technologies and the building together of meanings through their use, through the users’ context, the understanding of such tools, thus removing the separation between the body, the territory and the digital world. People’s histories as they were faced with technologies became the tool to build processes of relational learning, through analogy.

Analogy, here, is built as a form of similitude – the resemblance that played a constructive role in western culture knowledge (Foucault, 1995, p. 21). In analogy two knowledges overlap:

  • Convenientia: convenient are the things which come sufficiently close to one another to be in juxtaposition; their edges touch, their fringes intermingle, the extremity of the one also denotes the beginning of the other. (Foucault, 1995:25).
  • Aemulatio: emulation does not depend on approximation, it can happen at a distance, as it reproduces a resemblance without contact, a reflection, though not inert, and sometimes can even be considered rivals, “without its being possible for anyone to say which of them brought its similitude to the other.” (1995:22).


In its turn, analogy, this “old concept”, as wrote Foucault (1995, p.29), presents itself with the power to use the subtle resemblances of relations to create similitudes overlapping convenientia and aemulatio, and resulting in a way of creating affection, kinship. Analogy is a fundamental aspect for learning in users’ communities and of the tools used, as we shall see in the course of this essay. 


That afternoon, in Alter do Chão, we started with the stories. The first question for the participants was a way to explore their understanding and use of the internet, as well as checking how the internet was actually received in that territory.

What is the internet for you?”

In the group there were lawyers, anthropologists, funders, indigenous leaders and even a priest. The relationship with the internet was different to each one: some were born and it was already around them, others accessed it for the first time not long ago, although already advanced in years. Some hated it, others loved it. Some had the feeling of constant surveillance from technological apparatuses, others thought this to be paranoiac, denying there is such a thing. For some it is a territory in dispute, for others the dispute is already lost.

In this group, the internet was built through the meanings provided by the participants: it is a means of communication, it is a tool that brings together, but it is also a tool that drives apart. The last person to answer the question was an indigenous community leader, who declared11:

The internet is like the shaman. He is our only defense. He treats the illnesses that our doctors can’t identify, he deploys his knowledge, even at a distance, he knows everything that is going on. The internet is a tool for us to use for communication, for information and to train people in the defense of our rights, people are being killed because they fight for the defense of the territory, the defense of our rights.

This indigenous woman used her relationships, her history and culture to establish a connection with the tool put forward: she created a similitude through analogy between the internet and the shaman. By means of this relation a kinship bond that connects her learning process and the facilitating people was created. From her understanding of what the internet is, we could finally ask questions like: how the internet comes to the territory, what are the social, political and cultural implications and its transformations resulting from the use of this tool and what are the risks in using certain digital infrastructures.

Computers, internet and hope(lessness)

As we approach the aspects that permeate the relation between individuals and technological artifacts, especially cellphones and computers, one needs to briefly look at history in order to understand the distribution of such technologies in a sociopolitical and geographic context. In Brazil, the distribution of the internet began at the coastal states with the most public universities, and little by little crawls inland. This movement was followed by the arrival of the several physical devices for access (computers, cellphones, school tablets), and also of the ways of connection, i.e., broadband, optical fiber 2G and 5G, everything varies geographically. If in some cities 5G is the talk of the town, in others the hot topic is satellite internet. This unequal arrival drives experimentation to take place disproportionately in each community. The internet arrived in the 1990’s with certain risks for some, while for others it arrived in the 2020’s bringing in much more devastating risks. In order to understand that, let’s briefly explore the history of computation, of the tools and of the softwares that emerged in the wake of the internet.

There are controversies, but the history we know of marketable computers (and not computational machines) harks back to the 1970’s; only at the end of this decade that personal computers began to be produced in mass, the following ten years being the moment in which commercialization introduced the computer to the daily life of the Global North families. The machines before the personal computer (PC) were called mathematical machines or calculators, used to create code, codified communication in financial trade and in war relations.

This period is often identified with a process recognizably linked to wars. Technology, in this context, is considered by some authors as a masculinized culture: obsessed with the control of tools, of the techniques, and, above all, of bodies, supported by the concept of Wiener’s (1989) cybernetics, “the control and communication in animal and machine”.

To emphasize, as I do here, the ways in which the symbolic representation of technology is sharply gendered is not to deny that real differences do exist between women and men in relation to technology. Nor is it to imply that all men are technologically skilled or knowledgeable. Rather, as we shall see, it is the ideology of masculinity that has this intimate bond with technology. (Wajcman, 1991, p. 137)

But beyond the relation with war and with masculinity supported by the idea of control, the internet’s development also struggled desiring decentralized communication and globalized distribution of access and knowledge. Still in the 1980’s, while some developed systems known as “proprietor” or “closed”, others dedicated their time to imagine other possible futures for such technologies, creating systems and ideas of process openness to all people, as is the case of Richard Stallman, creator of the GNU Project12, in 1983, of Free Software Foundation13 in 1985, and of the GNU license (general public license)14 in 1989, a license that is widely known as copyleft.

If in the United States researchers worked to develop parallel systems and to imagine a free (from market or politics) internet, it was only in 1988 that the free net emerged as a possibility in Brazil , an effort by universities to start the distribution of this new way of connecting – which only entered the Brazilian households ten years later, in 1996. A lot was already in place when the internet began to connect the Brazilian population: proprietary source and open source, copyright and copyleft licenses, emails, search websites and discussion forums. But, it is also when the alter-globalization groups (as mentioned by Silvio Rhatto, in interview) emerge with the perspective of “another world is possible”, especially as a critique to the global neoliberal movement then in course.

It is in this context that internet activist collectives (cyberactivists) begin to form, to create online alternatives and take up the technologies as a way of stopping the neoliberal advance, informed by an anticapitalist and antiglobalization logic. Although successful in the attempt to create spaces in the internet to express their opinions, today this past is seen with pessimism15 by some:

Twenty years on and few remain in thrall to the revolutionary potential of the Internet that has been well and truly captured by capitalism. The tech giants dominate our digital lives – Facebook, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon, Microsoft and Apple together have a combined annual revenue larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 90% of the world’s countries (Lawrence and Laybourn-Langton, 2019). Apple is the first trillion-dollar company in history. Jeff Bezos, the founder and owner of Amazon, is the richest person in history, with his net wealth increasing by US$400 million a day in 2018. These corporations form the largest oligopolies the world has ever seen. They are resistant to traditional forms of regulation and are largely out of reach of democratically organized political will-formation. (Fenton, 2020, p. 1055)

The popularization of the internet arrived with a flavor of emergency, without public consultation, and without foreseeing the possible needs regarding legal apparatuses and the impact on the access to information. Another important aspect was the lack of discernment about what software is, what are the differences between open and proprietary source, and what are the implications of the tools’ privacy policies. And what is the data that the owners of the tools could extract from their users.

The open software communities

The open source communities grew exponentially in the years 2000, and in such communities the softwares’ codes are freely made available for anyone to see, modify and distribute (Sharman et al, 2002), by means of the licenses chosen by the authors of such tools. The availability of access to the code is directly linked to the possibility that the users could take care of security and privacy of their own data, as well as validating if the tool really can do what it advertises and if this is being executed correctly. The growth of open source communities is directly linked to the expansion of access to the internet globally, generating more needs and production of technological artifacts.

In this text, the community is related to feeling part of something, something that produces a good feeling because of itself: safety in the midst of hostility (Bauman, 2003). Every community features a code: it can be a manner of speaking, the agreements between peers, of even interests in common. It is like watching an art performance or seeing a water bottle in an art exhibition: one needs to know the signs in order to get the message issued. It is not different in the open software communities.

While activist movements took up technology as a way of amplifying their voices, they also faced the need to dominate technology and its tools. Silvio Rhatto told us in an interview that his experience as a developer took place in this scenario: a starting point to learn how to use and develop tools in the DIY logic, and create tools on demand. It is also at this moment that the movements begin to strengthen part of their members through the learning of such technologies.

Open source has always served as a vanguard for the rest of our online behavior. In the late 1990s, open source was the poster child for a hopeful vision of widespread public collaboration, then dubbed “peer production”. Because open source software was starting to outpace software sold by companies, economists believed that these developers had achieved the unthinkable. As the internet floated peacefully in its embryonic state, it really did seem possible that the world might eventually be powered by the efforts of self-organized communities. (Eghbal, 2020, p. 15).

As the open source communities keep emerging, disappearing or growing, their modes of existence also vary – although the rule of accessing, modifying and distributing the source is still valid. The open-source software groups can be open or closed, have authorities and decision makers, or can make decisions through consensus only.

The term “open source” refers only to how code is distributed and consumed. It says nothing about how code is produced. “Open source” projects have nothing more in common with one another than “companies” do. All companies, by definition, produce something of value that is exchanged for money, but we don’t assume that every company has the same business model. (Eghbal, 2020, p. 44)

This also means that each community exists in its own way. A common perception of this period is that the communities of developers belonged to a specific gender and ethnicity: they were white men. This fact led to a discussion about diversity in technology, with the emergence of various groups16  seeking to bring in more women and the discussion around bias in technological development.

Thus, a major characteristic of open source and its communities: availability of access does not necessarily mean accessibility.

Open source is complicated because it contains a messy mix of both technical and social norms, most of which play out in public. It is documented extensively (nearly every decision is written down somewhere) but not clearly (you have to dig through years of mailing list archives to find what you need). Its treasures are hidden amidst a tangle of brambles and thorns.

Social norms are passed down through trial and error, which means that getting something wrong runs the risk of embarrassment and mockery in front of one’s peers. Developers don’t contribute to open source of lack of technical ability, but rather due to fear of committing a faux pas. (Eghbal, 2020, p. 43)

How much can a person access the documentation repository of an open source software if she or he does not master the signs or codes through which the developers communicate? Which leads us to the next question: for whom is the software produced? Who is open source for?

Digital Infrastruc-

The predatory

In 2004, Facebook was fun; in 2006, addictive.

As early as the year 2000, the social networks had created a new environment for the production, reproduction and sharing of information that lasts until the present moment. The Meta business has enjoyed dominance in this scenario for years, reflected on the denunciations against the manipulation of the American presidential elections in 201417 with the use of the Facebook tool, in the dissemination of fake news in Brazil through Whatsapp tool, also during the country’s  presidential elections in 201818, or in the sale of products and the production of influencers via Instagram. In common, besides belonging to Meta, these tools promote the fast exchange of information between users, without the need to check facts, and resort to well-known gamification techniques: reward between users by means likes, comments or reactions; or financially, through contracts and increase of relevance using paid algorithms in the platforms.

Besides being “rewards”, comments and likes are also considered social proof (Hilverda et al, 2018). Social proof is a social and psychological phenomenon that demonstrates that individuals tend to imitate other people’s opinions and actions, particularly if these are people they admire or for whom they hold affection. This technique is known in the market and is deployed to create strategies to engage more users in the platforms. Information technologies, in general, use various psychosocial techniques to establish users’ engagement patterns, to gain a significant database and to grow in the networks. Such techniques include: exploring emotional intelligence, rewarding users, attracting them through pop culture (such as advertising featuring the endorsement of celebrities of the target audience), or the use of social proof.

Rewarding users is also an aspect of gamification. Let’s use the concept proposed by Deterding (2011) to define gamification as “the use of game elements in non-gaming contexts”. Such is the case of the game Free Fire, launched in 2017 and that has secured a considerable database in Brazil (2021, Macedo et al) and in other countries of the Global South. Its significant growth in such regions has a simple explanation: (1) is a free game; (2) works on any device, including simpler or old smartphones. Brazil quickly became one of its main communities, and the game used local pop celebrities to attract and keep users: singer Anitta19 and dj Alok20 participated in events for the platform.

The adoption of the game Free Fire by youngsters in Brazil did not take place only in urban areas, but also in rural zones, where indigenous peoples composed part of the gamers’  database. There was even an exclusive competition designed for them in 2020, the Villages’ Cup (Copa das Aldeias)21. If, on the one hand,  the game is considered inclusive as it is easy to access it both in terms of value and of the device used, on the other hand it is noxious, due to the easy path towards addiction, possibly causing physical, emotional or financial damage to the users. There are many studies scrutinizing addiction in tools and games taking into account age, exposure to technologies and schooling level and access. But I will not deal with those here. My aim is to explore addiction to certain technologies in indigenous communities, and the development of non-invasive or non-predatory technologies for these very communities.

During a visit to a Guarani village, in southern Brazil, the region’s youngsters commented on their experience with digital platforms with which they interacted, particularly Facebook and Free Fire. Both were identified as noxious, addictive and negatively impacting daily lives. A youngster related how the game made her spend a considerable amount of money in the hope of reaching a better level in the dispute22. Others remarked how Meta’s social platform took their time and attention, distracting them from the obligations and the villages’ cultural life. In this perspective, such digital technologies, with closed source, centered on the experience of consumption, will be treated here as predatory infrastructures.

But the non-humans also capture humans, seducing them and/or predating them, in order to equally transform them into members of their community. Predation is, thus, intimately associated with this cosmic desire of producing kinship. (Fausto, 2002, p. 14)

Predatory infrastructures are non-human social artifacts, which, although devoid of agency because technology is neither good nor bad (Alter, 2017), are produced by other humans with the intent of capturing the users’ attention on the platform. In order to do so, many tools are used and countless tests, sometimes known as “usability trials”, when the designers identify what are the colors, designs, formats, texts that most attract people, and from there they are able to build a seductive tool, ready for predation. There is no empathetic intention behind that, the market of digital infrastructure production wants consumers (users) and their data, the more data the better.

“If it is free, then you are the product”23.

Here’s the question: is anthropophagy necessarily a cannibal practice or can one eat human beings as if they were mere food? If, as we saw, there are moments in which certain animals are consumed as enemies (that is, in the condition of people), it is legitimate to ask if there are moments when humans are consumed as simply food (that is, as an object-inert, support for other relations). (Fausto, 2002, p. 27)

Although there are tools in which humans are distinguished only as bits to be consumed by the tool – thus ceasing to contain one’s identity, one’s ethos and one’s own existence, becoming food for the tool; on the other hand, there are technologies that are created as support for the same humans, and, as they do not use of the tools as mere market seducers, they face challenges regarding the formation of community and adherence to its proposal.

The gift

(…) we, Yanomami, never keep the objects we make or receive, even if we miss them later. We soon give it away to whoever asks for them, and thus they quickly move away from us and go from hand to hand non-stop, reaching far. This is why we don’t really have our own goods. When we get a new machete from the whiteman, soon we hand it over to a guest who liked it during a reahu feast. Then we tell him: “I am a forest dweller, I don’t want a lot of merchandise like the whiteman! Take this old piece of metal that came from us from Omama. I have used it enough! I will not deny it to you! Take it with you! You will be able to clear some jungle for a cultivation patch with it! And then later he will give it to another person! So speak of me to whoever keeps it later and their relatives. I want to have people’s friendship from far away! Later, it will be my turn to ask you for something!” Later, the guest, once he returns to his own, will not take long before he gives the same machete to another visitor. This is how it goes, from hand to hand, it will end up reaching strangers in a distant forest.  (A queda do céu, Davi Kopenawa, 2015, p. 412).

The gift is a universal action, even the leaders of nations carry gifts. This is the sense of the Tapiri (…) the idea is not to deceive, it is to establish a relation. If him (the indigenous individual) goes and takes the gift, he is accepting it. It he takes it and leaves a gift, so much the better, there is a good relation. And there is he who takes the tapiri and breaks it, this is the best, this is the one I like best (Sidney Possuelo, in a lecture, 21th April of 2022)

In the book Fall of the Sky (A queda do céu – 2015), Davi Kopenawa writes about the way of the gift, which travels very far from hand to hand, becoming an object that generates affection wherever it goes, and something that can be retributed in the future. On the other hand, Sidney Possuelo, indigenist of the National Indigenous Foundation (Fundação Nacional do Índio), commented on the gift as an action to generate proximity, to generate a relation with the other, and specifically in the context of isolated indigenous peoples: there are those who may accept the gift, those who accept it and retribute the gesture, those who do not accept it and those who not only refuse it as they break the gift, showing there is no desire in the relation proposed.

The path of the gift I want to propose here is something similar: gifts are given to somebody or to some community in order to build relations, and can result in exchanges between the people involved, or in the break of such relations. In this way, the open source softwares that we deal with can be seen as gifts: virtual objects (created by a developer or by a group of people) that are offered to users (the indigenous communities). There is no explicit request for a retribution, but there is an expected minimum, the use of such tools, a reciprocity without which there will be no relation, without which the digital infrastructure will not take place.

Some groups like the Coletivo Proteja, developers of the application Proteja Amazônia, created an app and went to the user communities to check out if this product could be used, if there was a sense to it. Thus, the opportunity of verifying if the technology is going to be taken up or not and carry out changes according to the community’s needs.

The softwares we researched in this study are grounded on the premise of access to technology, of distribution between the communities and activism for the protection of the forests and the communities themselves. They are developed and distributed as f/oss free software and/or open source softwares, although having already understood that accessing the product does not necessarily means accessibility. There is also a controversy regarding development: there are softwares that amount to adaptations, possible within the free software ecosystem, but if the maintainers cease to support the base code, the very software will cease to exist. Also there are softwares that have been out-of-date for a long time, and there are others that make the code available for whoever wants to use it, adapt or recreate it, but that leave no platform open to any developer, like Github24.

Among the projects developing open source softwares, not all of them enjoy update maintenance and/or available, as in the table below:


Open Source


Starting date

Last update

Link to project

Proteja Amazônia





No (25)

Hermes - Rizhomatica




August 26 2022

Alertas +




January 6 2022

Mapa Guarani Digital




July 23 2019





January 13 2019





February 25 2022

Last checked in September 2022.

Digital Infrastruc-

The projects that aim at the creation of communication networks between the communities – even if they are not necessarily connected to the internet – aim at the promotion of access to local cultural protection and the creation of modified versions of specific open source free digital infrastructures. One example is Nhandeflix, a platform developed with the Guarani communities and supported by the Intervozes and Coolab organizations to make available content produced by the communities themselves, encouraging not only exchanges between them, but also generating autonomy regarding the modes of accessing and producing content on the internet.

In each village we set up an intranet that can be accessed via wi-fi and outside of the internet, where content by the Guarani Nhandereki is available and managed by the community. Nhandeflix is a success in the villages’ intranet and it, as the time restriction can be modified in each village remotely, an important detail since there are more than 20 villages scattered in an area stretching from the municipality of São Paulo to the seaside (text by Intervozes and Comitê Interaldeias, received by personal message, on 30th of July 2022).

Among the projects actively working towards the construction of local intranet networks with the indigenous or riverside communities, there are open source softwares that stand out among those used to build such networks. Softwares we can consider as radical infrastructure due to their promotion of access and of the local production of internet content between communities. They are the LibreMesh and Openwrt softwares.

The possibility of maintenance to support free software is a vital element that popped up in the community calls of this research: funding is needed for maintenance, but it is above all necessary for the building of communities – between users, developers and funders – so that the sustainability of the project is possible.



Latest update


April 23 2022.


September 9 2022.


Official site informs the project’s closing date in 2019.

Last checked in September 2022.

Digital Infrastruc-

On the list above we made a link available for the repositories of the software used as radical infrastructures for the production of content in the communities and their latest updates. Before finishing writing this text, we added Piratebox, a software we found out about, used by the Coletivo Marialab for the production of the Fuxico software26, in order to stress that when a software ceases to be maintained, several others can cease to exist with it.

The developer

There is no formula for the answer; more precisely, to answer is not just to react with a fixed calculation appropriate to the machines, to logic and – most of western philosophy insisted – to the animals.

During this research, we carried out individual and collective conversations with developers and maintainers of the projects above, when we were able to identify similar characteristics and challenges, promoting exchanges between groups and glimpsing at possibilities for alliances. According to an interview with Silvio Rhatto, the projects can be developed by means of a team that is part of the organization, as is the case with Alertas+, or with outsourced staff who have no direct link with the organization, as is the case with the Guarani Digital Map. There is still a third possibility: developers who had direct contact with the community and decided to meet their demands, as is the case with Proteja Amazônia and of Hermes.

Each one of these situations brings in particular challenges, especially because none  secures the establishment of a community of developers –  something that, according to Silvio Rhatto, only takes place with big digital infrastructures, such as Linux’s Kernel. A common challenge among those hiring outsourced services is the lack of funding for software maintenance, especially if the maintainer is an organization working in the territory, i.e., it is not a specialized organization in the development of technologies.

The lack of funding seems to be a generalized problem among the project maintainers, to secure both its creation, usually in competition with predatory technologies, and its existence.

It was on July 17. We stayed up there for ten days, it was supposed to be fourteen. But in this moment, this moment was very important to us, because it was the first step in this trusting relationship with them, we stayed two days in a meeting with them, we couldn’t even leave the room they got for us before securing the approval of the whole village for us to walk abound and also talk to the leaders in order to test the application, our idea was that they could check the interface, see if they would use it intuitively, it was more a usability trial. (Rodolfo Avelino, developer of the project Proteja Amazônia, interview of 2021).

Funding not only provides financial resources for developers, but also allows visits to the communities in order to present and test the tool developed (this cost is usually high in the Amazon region): fundamental phases to discover the needs relative to development.

And the response… We installed the application in the leaders’ cellphone and then we realized that everything we had thought was ideal for them was not working, they were not able to navigate. Then they said: ah, the best is Whatsapp, everybody uses Whatsapp here, so if it resembles Whatsapp, it will work. And change we did, what were five screens in the original application became just one. (Rodolfo Avelino, interview of 2021).

On the other hand, if the development is the organization’s initiative, it is still a challenge to communicate the need of knowing and presenting the tools to the users. Silvio says27 that in ten years working with the development of products in an organization, not once did he had the opportunity to get in touch with the communities to whom he developed products. Something that was fundamental, also, during the development of the Guarani Digital Map, which although it was not technologically taken up by the users, they took it up in terms of content. The Guarani Digital Map is a tool that offers the possibility of recording events in the demarcated indigenous regions, those under process of reclaiming, or the old regions, by means of entering coordinates into the system. Without deploying the tools, users write the coordinates on a piece of paper, recording the data necessary for the entry in the tool, and pass them on to the coordinators and maintainers of the project, who then feed the platform.

Building kinship

We realized that the creation of relations lies at the heart of a free software project that seeks to endure: be it to have a community of users, of developers, or to manage funding for its sustainability in the long run, thus securing its maintenance. But even so, all of these words in bold present challenges to those involved.

To begin with, the relation is established by means of gifts, or of names or of other possible artifacts. But the exchange, as we noticed, depends on an affinity between the actors. In the scenario of the softwares that seek alliance with the forest guardians, usually this relation is not invented, but is established by means of a network of relations between other peers, and often grounded on the presentation of a problem to be tackled, as is the case with the creation of the Hermes project28:

Hermes first appeared over a decade ago (…) We talked a lot to professor Mauro Almeida, of IFCH, and he had participated in the creation of the High Juruá extractivist reservation. And in this project they carried out with the extractivists they always said that one of the problems they had there was communication. And in the case of the extractivists they wrote up a letter with their demands, and one of these demands was a radio, radiophony, communication. (Rafael Diniz, quote from a private conversation)

This story is repeated in the project creators with whom we talked to: they all start from a specific need of a community. In the case of the Guarani we visited, for instance, although certain technologies had been adopted grounded on an idea of inclusion (of youngsters into technological games), little by little they were perceived as noxious as they drove the youngsters away from the community’s activities, as with the Free Fire game. Others, like instantaneous messaging platforms or social networks, if on the one hand they can be seen as addictive, on the other they allowed villages to be in contact with one another and exchange chants between them, some already forgotten by some, as a way to redeem a memory erased by the geographic distance between them. Thus, such technologies were reimagined and others could be built by means of alliances between the projects and the communities, as is the case of Nhandeflix:

Tekoa is a Guarani word for village, teko means way of life, and tekoa the place of the mode of life. The internet is a tool that facilitates communication between villages and helps in the political incidence on a world that is not indigenous, but it is also a tool through which the non-indigenous world de-structures the Nhandereko, a word referring to the Guarani way of life. With non-stop attention-capturing mechanisms and devices that restrict human connections to mere de-corporified interactions, the internet has a brutal impact on the life of us all and above all on those who live in a community. Capturing the attention to a place outside of the tekoa dismantles the teko, corroding community relations. The Guarani quickly understood that they needed to build a relationship with the internet where it does not become the place where one spends most of the time, something the indigenous peoples do not understand or do not take seriously. The Comitê Interaldeias, the regional organization of the Guarani people, together with Intervozes and CooLab are developing tools to help in the construction of this technological autonomy. (Text by Intervozes and Comitê Interaldeias, received via personal message, on July 30 2022)

If there is a relationship between developers and users built into a community, the next challenge involves practical aspects of the third sector, especially funding, to generate two states of life that can amount to a blocking point for so many projects: maintenance and sustainability. Funding is a primordial aspect so that the softwares do not need to capture users’ data as exchange currency: making the user become the product. It is through the funding that the software continues to be just a software – a means to access information, a mode of production of content or a means to articulate denunciations.

It is also a way of positioning funders within the commitment to social change and the protection of the forests: how is it possible for funders to promote the maintenance and sustainability of softwares that are fundamental for the communities already so affected by the relations of technological encounters? What are the responsibilities of the philanthropic foundations in the maintenance of technological inequalities, or, above all, what are their responsibilities in the dismantling of such inequalities?

Instead of closing such issues stating that it is necessary to drive additional funding into such communities (of users and developers) this research only opens up an even bigger problem: how to establish far-reaching relations between these three actors (funders, developers/organizations, communities) so that jointly we are able to work for the maintenance of their desires for the protection of the forests, against climate crisis?

As Haraway would say “our debt is only just opening up to the speculative reconstruction of the world and thus to possible, material, affective, practical worlds in the detailed and concrete situation of the here, in this research tradition, not everywhere and all the time” (Haraway, 2011, p. 59), thus a deeper and speculative alliance must be created, through the deep listening of the challenges facing the forest and the digital infrastructures communities.


1. Accessed on November 18 2022. (Back.)

2. Accessed on November 18 2022. (Back.)

3. Accessed on November 18 2022. (Back.)

4. One such project is the coalition between Greenpeace, Hivos and Cuica: “Todos os olhos na Amazônia”: Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

5. Accessed on November 8 2022. (Back.)

6. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

7. Acesso em 27 out 2022. (Back.)

8. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

9. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

10. Accessed on September 9 2022. The website seems to have been hacked on September 9 2022.(Back.)

11. We chose to preserve the anonymity of some of the indigenous leaders who are in a situation of risk. (Back.)

12. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

13. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

14. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

15. In the essay Technology, Communication and Power (on this site), Bruno Rigonato Mundim approaches the idea of pessimism. (Back.)

16. An example is the group Tech Back the Tech, created in 2006: Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

17. Accessed on September 8 2022. (Back.)

18. Accessed on September 8 2022. (Back.)

19. (Portuguese) Accessed on September 8 2022. (Back.)

20. (Portuguese) Accessed on September 8 2022. (Back.)

21. (Portuguese) Accessed on September 8 2022. (Back.)

22. Márcia Nóbrega and Luciana Ferreira wrote about this at: From the anthropophagization of code to narrative hacking: how to weave communities?, in this site. (Back.)

23. Accessed on September 8 2022. (Back.)

24. (Back.)

25. According to interview with developer Rodolfo Avelino, Proteja Amazônia is not available in a public repository because the code is not yet ready, but it is made available to groups they know and who would like to replicate or adapt the code. (Back.)

26. Accessed on September 9 2022. (Back.)

27. See the interview on this site: Free software, Sustainability and Social Movements. (Back.)

28. Read more about HERMES in Bruno Mundim’s article Technology, communication and power, on this site. (Back.)


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