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Social Media and Social Change in a Bahian Working Class Settlement

Andrade Spyer, Juliano; (2017) Social Media and Social Change in a Bahian Working Class Settlement. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis results from fifteen months of fieldwork in a working-class settlement located near an international touristic region within Bahia in the Northeast of Brazil. It addresses two main objectives: to offer an ethnographically-based description of the use of social media by working class Brazilians, and to examine the consequences of this use in relation to social change. The main theoretical framework I use comes from the field of linguistic anthropology. I examine locally traditional forms of communication that the anthropological literature calls ‘indirection’, a form of opaque speech that creates private spaces of interaction in situations of dense sociality. Indirection has been studied in postcolonial contexts as a means to protect socially vulnerable subaltern from everyday situations of conflict. The thesis moves from face-to-face uses of indirection to examine digital media enabling new possibilities for opaque communication. I also draw from this and other literature (analysing visual postings online) to posit that ‘private’ and ‘public’ are problematic notions to describe how my informants understand and use social media, so I propose as alternative the ethnographically-based notions of ‘lights’ on and ‘lights off’. Locals use the term ‘addiction’ to express the fascination they have for Facebook and WhatsApp, but while the Internet seems to symbolise modernity and prosperity, social media is used mainly for hidden acts of communication such as spreading rumours, gossiping, and for spying on each other. This suggests that, while appearing to be transformative, social media also reinforces forms of relations common in dense sociality such as the use of social control mechanisms. As such I posit that social media also serves the purpose of resisting changes associated with the expansion of formal work, the increasing presence of the state and the growing influence of Protestant Evangelical churches in low-income localities.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Social Media and Social Change in a Bahian Working Class Settlement
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10024835
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