Current Content Downloads, with Farofa: Adventures in Cracolândia

Current Content Downloads, with Farofa: Adventures in Cracolândia (Google Video):

Trying to to figure out what to read, and what not to read, every day in São Paulo, Brazil, so as not to get stupider with the passage of time to the point that they throw us out of the reality-based community. High-end retailer refers us to the teeming streets of Crack City in search of replacement parts for our production facilities. A brief note on tropical cats and the Amazonian TAZ. Political slush-fund money-laundering pipeline reverse-engineering exercises. Who could have foreseen the Brazilian LAN house explosion? Quite a few sentient beings, as it turns out.

Correction at 4:26. That should read:

Because the outrageously expensive gizmo does not work without the amazingly cheap doodad, you can jack up the price for the amazingly cheap doodad

On the absurd hypothesis of the “unforeseeability” of the LAN house or Internet café explosion in Brazil, the quickest and most shallow of googles turns up, for example, a 2004 paper by geographer Sidney Santos Cardoso Filho on the topic: “LAN Houses: Elements of a New Urban Dynamic,” updated in 2005 and 2006:

Comite do Comércio Eletrônico descrevem que existem “ 3 milhões de Lan House” <<http://ce.mdic.gov.br/estatisticas/>&gt; página acessada em 15/02/2006 no Brasil. Sob o olhar desta perspectiva, apreciamos um grande número desses “pontos” no espaço brasileiro. Os referidos pontos são, na realidade, frutos de um processo de acumulação capitalista e do processo de globalização. Geram locais provedores de entretenimento e sociabilidade, que instalam em diversas áreas espraiadas pelo território brasileiro, e que exercem influência na dinâmica urbana brasileira.

The Committee on E-Commerce described the existence of “3 million LAN house” in Brazil [cite]. From this perspective, we see there are a large number of such “end points” in Brazilian social space. These points are in fact the fruit of a process of accumulation of capital and globalization. They create local centers for sociability and entertainment in various areas all over Brazilian territory, which influences the Brazilian urban dynamic.

[Accessing those statistics, by the way, produced the following output for me:

Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error ‘80004005’
[Microsoft][ODBC Microsoft Access Driver]General error Unable to open registry key ‘Temporary (volatile) Jet DSN for process 0x874 Thread 0xda0 DBC 0x43c23d14 Jet’.
/se/Default.asp, line 39]

And see also

As our waspish correspondent there — the online column is titled “I have seen the world, which is not something you see on television” — challenged media prognosticators who had failed to factor the “LAN house generation” into their punditry during the last elections:

If I had the time, money and less to do, I would love to submit our pundits to a brief survey:

  1. When was the last time you used public transportation? (The Paris) metro does not count;
  2. When was the last time you visited Dourados, in Mato Grosso do Sul?
  3. Have you ever been to Campo Grande or Goiânia?
  4. Have you been to Parelheiros lately?
  5. Have you ever been inside a LAN house Internet café? Do you even know what a LAN house is?

We have been LAN-housing it ourselves for several years now.

And when we walk around the neighborhood, we consistently see more rather than fewer of them.

The ones we already know about tend not to go out of business, too.

You could simply come over to our house, for example, and talk the guys up the street who have just opened up another LAN house in the neighborhood here.

Me: “So, how come you decided to open up a LAN house, my man?”

The Guy: “Well, I have always wanted to, but I could never afford to before. But now computers are cheap, and I could get a loan at a decent rate, so I totally went for it. Lots of kids in this neighborhood who I figured would really like a LAN house.”

It’s like running a laundromat.

Credit for acquiring computers, from the Caixa and BNDES, is written into the Computador para Todos program, in fact.

Much as small business incentives are written into the PAC.

But of course, here we are talking specifically about favelas.

But the thing is that the distinction between the “asphalt” and the “hillside” is not always as dramatic or clear-cut as you might be led to expect.

Our hook-ups here are home are all entirely on the grid, for example.

But I can point my finger more or less at random out the window as I sit here and show you dense snarls of “yanked cats” — puxar um gato mean to plug in anyway, and screw the phone company, because you need to, and because you can — absolutely everywhere.

We are eating in a health-food restaurant — official health permit and everything — the other day, in an fairly upscale neighborhood, and my wife points to the electrical lines coming in and mouths the word gato.

Sure enough: the restaurant is running on cat-yanking power, and doing nothing to conceal the fact.

So that’s no barrier to successful prognostication, either: We have been reading for quite some time now that illegal cable, satellite and broadband pipelines long ago infiltrated off-the-grid communities.

In Rio, in fact, the so-called GatoNet is often controlled by militias, according to published reports.

Therefore, to fail to foresee an explosion of LAN house and cybercafé establishments under those conditions is to assume a hypothetical Brazil in which the jeitinho is not a factor.

A mystical, magical kingdom where your spreadsheet models always work without your ever having to leave your gated community to experience the world as it actually runs. Which is kind of on a shoestring, with all sorts of insane kludges, but amazingly, it actually runs nevertheless.

And finally: In Brazil, the teeming masses who live off the grid — but who have a satellite dish in the quintal that shows them what the rest of the world is like — tend to want the same things as people live on the grid.

Badly.

So when you get a big chunk of people flooding out of abject misery into Class C, with lots of other people waiting in line to do the same, what do you think is going to happen?

Duh.

Or maybe the Vargas Foundation simply suspends the law of supply and demand when it tends to support conclusions that the Vargas Foundation finds inconvenient for one reason or another?

I mean, really: Is Lemos trying to tell us that no one could have predicted that programs designed to stimulate (1) computer ownership and digital literacy and inclusion and (2) small business entrepreneurship might actually work as planned?

Does he have a very nice, used Art Deco bridge for sale as well?

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