THE INTERNET AS A POSSIBILITY OF EMPOWERMENT FOR THE URBAN POPULAR CLASSES IN BRAZIL

 

This study reflects on the Internet and its resources, especially social media websites, as a scenario of empowerment for the Brazilian urban popular classes, which find in that space an opportunity to express their opinions, to socialize with their friends and family and to discover new horizons and conjunctures. According to the research “Information and Communication Technology Domiciles – TIC Domiciles Brazil” (2015), among individuals in the D/E and C classes, respectively, 16% and 56% have access to the virtual world. Besides the lack of resources provided by the government for the sector, the main reasons given by individuals who do not have internet access are: lack of home computer, lack of need and interest of the residents, high cost to maintain a broadband connection at home and the lack of knowledge about using the technological resources. Regarding subjects with internet access, 81% of D / E class users and 84% of C class users sent messages via WhatsApp, Facebook chat or Skype; 68% of D / E class users and 76% of C class users communicated on social networks sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (CETIC, 2015).

When analyzing the above data, the initial impression might be that the use of the Internet by classes C and D/E in Brazil is limited to an interpretation whose focus would be social inequality and problems related to digital inclusion. Although these are matters of undeniable importance, the focus of the present work is to portray conjunctures that fight against social exclusion, invisibility and violence through the tools available on the Internet, such as blogs and Facebook´s pages and selfies, that give them space to express themselves without censorship and without fear of being retaliated. Based on a literature review and on reports and images from social networks, we found evidence that the Internet is a place removed from the oppressive and stigmatizing gaze of various social and state authorities, beyond their daily lives marked by violence, inequality and segregation. The findings show that the Internet seems to offer them a safe environment where they may expose their reality and to reflect about it, to have fun, and to strengthen interpersonal relationships, even if the Brazilian elite seems to be somewhat reluctant to share the same virtual spaces. Thus, access to the Internet and technological resources is regarded as a tool that gives hope and points to a door of entry into a less unequal and more democratic society, as announced by Levy (1996) and Castells (1999) who consider the possibilities brought by virtual networks as more egalitarian and democratic spaces.

 


Paula Melgaço

paulamelgaco.psi@gmail.com

 

Junia de Vilhena

vilhena@puc-rio.br

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