Networking the favelas : leveraging international outreach to support digital journalism in Rio de Janeiro’s urban peripheries



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This dissertation interrogates two recent positions regarding the position of community activists as change agents for marginalized populations. The first position, generated by dissatisfaction with how organizations like the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development approach community partners, argues that grassroots actors offer a more egalitarian and dialogic approach to community-based economic, social, and political development. The second position, grounded in the history and theory of alternative media production as well as theories of citizen, civic, and participatory journalism, argues that technological advances in portable communication devices and the increasing ease of publishing in networked venues has re-configured and democratized the process of media production in a way that allows non-professional actors to create and disseminate media content. In order to investigate major theoretical and political implications of these two positions, I examine the international networking activities and local digital journalism programs practiced by Viva Rio, a Rio de Janeiro-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that has been working in the city’s favelas, or unincorporated urban slums, since 1993. Chapters 1-2 will address how Viva Rio used its position as the first favela-based NGO to draw in financial and political support from a variety of international organizations (IOs) ranging from the UN Development Program to the Inter-American Development Bank to Norwegian Church Aid. Chapters 3-5 will turn back to the local context to examine how Viva Rio channels resources gained through networking into its digital media production program, called Viva Favela. Drawing on interviews with staff members, quantitative and qualitative analysis of materials produced by the project, and participant observation of training workshops conducted in 2013, I examine how the international expansion of Viva Rio creates unintended consequences for Viva Favela including increased professionalization of staff and conflicting approaches to community outreach and training, and a distancing of the project from other favela-related media programs.