In 2013/2014 Claire and Tori taught for the first time optional modules on aspects of Latin American digital culture to final-year undergraduates at their respective universities, Liverpool and Queen’s University Belfast. We thought it would be interesting to mark this exciting development with a joint blog post.
Tori’s module, in Belfast, was called ‘Brazilian Digital Culture: Trends and Topics’ and covered diverse topics including trends in access to the internet, social media, free and open source software, internet policy and governance, digital activism, the impact of digital technologies on artistic, cultural and literary work in Brazil, and digital media as a tool for self-representation by marginalised social groups. The aim of the module was to explore digital culture critically and analytically in the light of broader themes in Brazilian culture and society as well as relevant theories, approaches and developments in the academic study of the internet and digital technologies.
The module was assessed by group blogging, an essay and an independent research project (which could be comparative). Examples of particularly interesting and successful topics chosen by students for the independent project, building on module material and their own areas of interest, included the changing dynamic between online and offline activity affecting social movements in Latin America (with examples from Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala) and the politics of music in the Latin American digital age (focusing on tecnobrega in the Brazilian context and reggaetón in the Cuban context).
The module will be undergoing some small adjustments in 2014/2015 and will be updated to reflect recent developments such as the passing of the Marco Civil (Brazil’s internet bill of rights) and the publication of further academic work on the role of digital culture in the Brazilian protests of 2013 (this class was taught on a crowdsourced basis in 2013, based on material found and proposed by students, to reflect its focus on a very recent event).
Claire’s module, in Liverpool, was called ‘Latin American New Media’, and covered a range of key issues and debates which inform new media practice in Latin America, including tactical media, digital inclusion and political game-art, amongst others.
Each week, for the first half of the module, the lectures and seminars covered a particular case study from different countries within Latin(o) America. During the second half of the module, students undertook independent research on a particular project or cultural product of their choice, employing Claire’s latamnetart delicious resources as an initial point of departure. The aim of the module was to enable students to critically analyse new media practice in the region, and to evaluate the extent to which national or regional concerns inflect the new media studied.
The module was assessed by an essay covering the content of the first half of the module, and a Project Case Study, arising from the independent research undertaken by students in the second half of the module. This latter in particular produced some excellent and insightful pieces of work, with students working on projects as varied as cyberfeminism in relation to Mexico City in the work of Cyndy Flores, the online-offline installations of Clemencia Echeverri in Colombia, and the Milagro de Chile project by Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga.
Both Tori and Claire will continue developing their modules for future years, and it is hoped we’ll be able to organize some shared sessions in the near future!