What I have been writing (2)

After my PhD, part of my 2018 was dedicated to ensure that all the research I did in the last three years could come to life. 

Even though the publication of my PhD into a book happened relatively fast, my challenge of seeing more out in the format of journal articles continued. The challenges from the PhD itself are subject for another post and there are many. Here, I give a quick summary of articles that were not only adjacent to the main research on the alternative media in Brazil, but they also relate to specific dilemmas of that vast media environment. This is especially true in a time of booming fake news, which I didn’t get it covered in the book. In any case, I give an overview of what all this effort has resulted:

The Internet, Politics, and Inequality in Contemporary Brazil: Peripheral Media (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018)

This book portrays a very particular moment in Brazil’s recent history. The last years of the leftist Workers’ Party in government; the downfall of Dilma Rousseff; the controversial Vice-President Michel Temer, and the changing mood that led the right into power after more than a decade. These elements appear from the perspective of the so-called alternative media. Between 2013 and 2015, I interviewed over 25 media producers and researched 500+ media outlets based in many parts of Brazil. I conceptualised the periphery as the cities’ impoverished outskirts, the favelas and the countryside. During these three years, I analysed the extent to which Brazil’s periphery, as represented by media producers, could set an example of politicisation from the margins as opposed to decades of silence and indifference from mainstream society. The answer was yes, but much progress must be seen in the next years so as to make these changes stand long and democracy is substantially strengthened for the next generations.

Counter-mapping and the geography of inequality in Brazil

For the Westminster Papers of Communication and Culture, I wrote about the emerging uses of geotagging and map apps by favelas and dwellers from other marginalised communities in Brazil. In the paper, I use Jane Jacob’s post-colonial ideas of countermapping to analyse a set of initiatives that include: (1) redrawing the boundaries of neighbourhoods where white people are the majority, (2) proposing to change the name of streets baptised after dictators or anti-democratic figures, and (3) making citizens aware of shootings and episodes of urban chaos are happening. These initiatives are obviously possible due to the popularisation of Internet apps and popular networked platforms, but as I argue, there are changes in the discursive patterns that lead to the unprecedented blur in the boundaries of the periphery. This phenomenon goes beyond social media and the hype from using technologies to activist purposes. It has to do with the revamping an old peripheral identity that has meant segregation, prejudice, and racism in the past, but which forges a new energy to claim and appropriate for peripheral and central locations in the urban fabric. 

Online media, poverty, and the notion of personality

This article for First Monday continues a topic on which I already wrote for this blog. It tries to understand what means “personality” for a group of media producers based in the Brazilian favelas but much active on social media. I researched posts that in which they talked about their private lives for three consecutive years (2013-15). I concluded this analysis by categorizing their agency and their discourse regarding their own lives and habits. I split it into a set of roles and expectations (as producers, journalists, community leaders), which were voiced by producers in semi-structured interviews.

The alternative media and the Olympics

Much of research on how marginalised communities and activists have gone against the Olympics around the world has dwelt on the issue of platform hijacking, i.e. protesters joining the Olympics to disrupt it, or people running on the streets to steal the Olympic torch or somehow trying to steal media attention. Me and Claudia Sarmento, from the University of Westminster, based our observations in this article for Journalism on social media publications that came out during the month of August 2018. We found that alternative media producers in Brazil opted for appearing less as disruptors of the Olympics, as far as this continues as a great media event of our time, producers have nonetheless remained attached to their local agendas, such as the political crisis or the violence in suburbs.

Discussing priorities for the study of the alternative media in Brazil

In this article for The Communication Review, I placed a critique against the term alternative media in Brazil by discussing the potential of the periphery. More than synonyms, these words are able to assess local communities in distinct lights. The latter connects to Brazil’s early formation since the colonial period and can effectively name a vast swath of the country in such a way that people can recognise. While ‘alternative’ has an international coinage that is particularly popular among English-speaking countries, it does not touch upon Brazil’s own challenges in the same way that periphery does. Thus, if one intends to understand how the counter-hegemonic media can happen in Brazil, its potential, and wherein these media producers sit, I recommend using the periphery as a complex, multi-nuanced, and, ultimately, productive term. My recommendation is that scholarly research should discuss the periphery through the lenses of authorship, pluralism, and politics. 

All the links also remain in the academic section of this website.

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