The Digital Production of the Self and Social Space of Rio’s Favelas Through the Analysis of Participatory Imagery

Authors: Adrian Gras-Velazquez*, Smith College, Jamie Worms*, Smith College
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: instagram,digital,media,brasil,favelas,representation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The practice of mapping space is no longer reserved for geographers. Access to new technology such as Google Maps has popularized mapping. In 2016, there were 81.4 million mobile phone internet users in Brazil, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Brazilian population (Statista, 2018). As opposed to relying on maps produced by the city officials and elite, the power to reproduce social order and discourse through maps is extended, digitally, to those who previously had very little power. In a very similar way, Instagram is a virtual, multi-authored platform that symbolizes geographic realities by capturing time and space specific features or characteristics. Instagram allows users to share photographs representative of their specific experiences in space. As opposed to simply reproducing dominant discourses, Instagram users are collaboratively producing multiple discourses based on their own personal experiences. In accordance with Agamben (2009 [2006]), the authors understand Instagram as a space that can ‘capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings’. This paper will follow the term ‘favela’ to analyze the production of space, knowledge, and citizenship in Rio. The objective of this paper is to analyze what participatory, multi-authored representation tells us about the identities and positionalities of those producing the virtual space of favelas. What are the embodied (lived) experiences of favela life? What does self, social, and spatial representation mean in the context of favelas? And, what is the role of Instagram in today’s understanding of the favela space?

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