They have something to say: a study of social media use and public discourse in the Rio de Janeiro favelas
The mainstream media portrays favelas in a negative light. This has been the case for over a century, since the very beginning of the favelas. The purpose of this research was to examine the use of digital social networks as counterpublics in the fight against this characterisation of the favela solely as a site dominated by violence. The massive entry of smartphones and the Internet into the favelas has brought significant changes in the way its residents relate to the world (Meirelles and Athayde, 2014) and especially how they interact with the mainstream media narratives about favelas' daily lives. The representation of the favela, although it has varied over the years without ever leaving aside the image of the 'dangerous classes' (Coimbra, 2001), became hegemonic as a place of crime and violence only from the 2000s (Vaz and Baiense, 2011) and, the present study proved that it remains so. In this context, it draws attention to the way in which social networks, especially Facebook, function as an horizontal channel for the production of information, where everyone can participate, and has been effectively used as a tool in search of voice and space by these residents, in the struggle against social invisibility and the legitimation of institutionalized violence. By reflecting on these activities, this research will significantly enhance our understanding of how people can use social media to counteract the official narrative. In addition, this study offers an account of the struggles and benefits of the so-called media activism in the favelas, and an analysis of its ability to influence the mainstream media bottom to top.
- PhD