We’re delighted to announce that Latamcyber member Tori Holmes was awarded her PhD by the University of Liverpool in November 2011 for a thesis entitled ‘Local content and embeddedness on the internet: Following the texts and practices of bloggers from a Brazilian favela’. The thesis is an interdisciplinary and ethnographically inspired exploration of how residents of a favela in Rio de Janeiro are using the internet to publish and disseminate ‘local content’, particularly on blogs, which puts forward their own representations of the area where they live, and was supervised by Dr Claire Taylor and Dr Marieke Riethof.
The thesis includes a critical and theoretical exploration of what the ʻlocalʼ means in the context of the internet, and draws on networked theories of place and locality. Overall it proposes a reworked understanding of the term ‘local content’, as the expression of a potentially plural and diverse ecology of locality constructed around (and by) individuals, incorporating multiple locations and interests. It also discusses methodological and ethical issues associated with internet research and provides background on digital culture and favelas in Brazil.
While overall figures for internet use in Brazil continue to mirror socioeconomic and regional inequalities, increases in access by favela residents in recent years have allowed for the emergence and dissemination of more diverse user-generated content about favelas. The thesis shows how content creators from one Rio favela employ different practices to explicitly anchor their content in a particular geographical location, as a way of combatting its stigmatisation, at the same time as they affirm it as an integral part of the city, which is also connected to other favelas and urban periphery neighbourhoods through shared perspectives and concerns.
Overall, however, the thesis argues that despite the innovative and dynamic nature of Brazilian digital culture, and the rising levels of internet access by favela residents in Rio de Janeiro, a more nuanced assessment of the effects and implications of digital culture is required. Access to the internet by favela residents in Rio de Janeiro and their use of this medium for the publication and dissemination of more diverse (self-)representations of favelas has challenged some hierarchies, but by no means removed them.
Well done, Tori!