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Social media refers to a group of Web applications that allow for the creation and exchange of user-generated content (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Users share all kinds of information about themselves and interact with one another in these applications (Rocha & Pereira, 2011). Social media are also widely used to coordinate events in the physical world in real time, because they offer access to social networks, expanding significantly the social sphere (Pereira et al., 2013). In other words, social media enable social networks to be easily formed and to become more visible.
Also a country of contrasts such as Brazil has been showing the technology conditions and a public interest in the use of social media and ICTs. Over the last decade, some 40 million people have risen out of poverty. Now, more than half of the population can be found in the middle of the national income distribution (C and B classes) 1. The number of smart phones with Internet access and broadband has grown enormously. According to a national survey from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), the number of Internet users (77,7 million) grew 143.8% and of mobile phone users (115,4 million) 107.2%, between 2005 and 2011 2 (IBGE, 2014). A survey conducted by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (2012), called Research on the use of Information Technologies and Communication in Brazil - Households and Business 2011 shows the popularity of online networking among Brazilians. In 2011, 69% of Internet users in Brazil were participating in online social networks such as Orkut, Facebook and LinkedIn. Increasingly, Brazilians are using online tools to call for social change as well. On Change.org (2013) - one of the largest platforms for online petitions - the number of participants has risen 646% in 2013.
The Wikimapa project (2013) from Rede Jovem (2013) is a collaborative virtual map focusing on identifying sites of public interest (i.e. hospitals, schools, shops, parks, sports fields, restaurants, bars) in low-income communities favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro. The process is powered by several participants, through mobile phones with Internet access (Figure 2). It aims to cut social gaps, through the exposure of what exists and happens in low-income communities, breaking the stigma of violence and marginalization. In their words (Wikimapa, 2013):
The Web's communication flow recognizes the freedom to share and reuse content, a kind of uncontrolled collective intelligence (Pereira et al., 2013). Lévy (1998) defines collective intelligence as a form of universally distributed intelligence, coordinated in real time, which results in effective mobilization of skills. The collective production phenomena, also known as crowdsourcing (Howe, 2006), takes contributions from the collective intelligence, and by using the knowledge and work of voluntary users is able to solve problems, create content, and develop new technologies. The following examples illustrate cases where people voluntarily collaborate by adding information and/or participating in discussions about city life.
Wikicrimes (2013), from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), allows users to search, view, and post criminal events on a map. Users can select crimes by group, place a marker at a specific place, and fill in information. The web page automatically displays statistics on the contributions (Figure 3). The creator's concern is that victims of crimes usually do not report the events, or the police monopolize the information concerning crime. According to them, public security departments have refused to collaborate with the project. Such behavior, demonstrates how data transparency is still a taboo in Brazil. Thus, maybe more than becoming a tool against criminality, this is an initiative that brings transparency to public security.
The project New Cartographies (2013) approaches mapping as a creative instrument of recognition, reflection, and action on the urban territory. With the sponsorship of the City of Rio de Janeiro, the project develops partnerships and research on participatory maps that seek to go beyond simple representation of the physical city space. One experiment attempts to map the ways in which Rio comprises different zones. Another relates social indices (e.g. life expectancy, population aging, and property costs) of the Policy Pacification Units (UPP in Portuguese - favelas formerly controlled by traffic)4 . There is also a collaborative project where users can view the paths made daily by cyclists through videos and texts sent by volunteers (Figure 4). The last one is a continuous production process that reinforces the feeling that "I can also create/join something" and generates visualizations for the understanding of city realities that, in general, are not otherwise available.
Through online activism, projects such as the Urbanias (2013) looks to alter aspects of urban reality. The site collects citizens' complaints and sends them to the competent bodies, asking for a response (Figure 5). Via podcasts, the site administrators show their relationship with government agencies, what kind of problems are difficult to solve, and their work routines in details. Currently, the site only meets the demands of the city of São Paulo. According to the creators, the proposal is to promote activism, providing mechanisms and tools that help and encourage personal entrepreneurship and improvement of all aspects related to the quality of life in the city. In other words, Urbanias aims to end the inertia of the citizens vis a vis urban problems, as well as the inertia of the competent bodies to solve them.
An alternative journalism group formed in 2011, called NINJA - Narratives Independent Journalism and Action (2013), which has more than 225.000 likes on Facebook (Figure 6), and has became known worldwide since the live transmissions of the public demonstrations during the Confederations Cup5 . Their work is known for socio-political activism, claiming to be an alternative to the traditional press. The Ninja's transmissions are a realtime video stream, over the Internet, using mobilephone cameras6 . In the words of one participant:
Initiatives such as the Votenaweb (2013) aims to discuss the decision-making between government and the public. Votenaweb is a nonpartisan site of civic engagement, which presents simple and brief proposals that are being presented to the National Congress (Figure 7). Anyone can vote symbolically for or against the proposals and give opinions. The goal is to offer an easier way for citizens to follow the politician's work and to keep informed about what happens in the National Congress. Moreover, it is possible to compare their votes with others and with the Parliamentarians (Wikipedia, 2013).
The Center for Advanced Studies on Digital Democracy (CEADD) from the Federal University of Bahia (UFBa) conducted a study on people's expectations on the platform (CEADD, 2013). From the 2.833 people who responded to the survey, 26% have as their primary intention to affect the decisions of lawmakers. When asked what Votenaweb means to them, 37% claimed that it was a way to affect the political life of the country. Regarding what else the platform could offer, 37% of the users wanted to be able to talk directly with parliamentarians. According to the authors, these results show that people feel they are being rarely heard by their representatives. Thus, there is a willingness to be heard. In the words of Castells (2013) in an interview about the case of Taksim Square in Istanbul:
For some time now, critical currents speak of the obsolescence of the state, favoring a social order that recognizes the movement and flows within organized networks that emerged with ICTs (Castells, 1996). Regarding changes in the relations with urban space, the words of Pereira et al. (2013, p. 10) are remarkable:
1 See news available at Folha de São Paulo online newspaper. Retrieved January 23, 2014 from -is-middle-class/ 2 See news available at IBGE webpage. Retrieved January 23, 2014 from =2382&view=noticia 3 See news available at the New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2014 from -taking-world-cup-bookings-rios-slums.html?_r=0 4 The Police Pacification Unit is a law enforcement and social services program pioneered in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which aims at reclaiming territories, more commonly favelas, controlled by gangs of drug dealers. By May 2013, 231 favelas had an UPP (Wikipedia, 2013). 5 See news available at The Guardian. Retrieved November 4, 2013 from www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/29/brazil-ninja-reporters-stories-streets 6 See news available at AFP news agency. Retrieved January 23, 2014 from =JHIm8HJPpNs 2b1af7f3a8