Sérgio Barbosa*

University of Coimbra

Received Sylff fellowship in 2019.
Current affiliation: Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS), TU Graz
Academic Supervisor: João Arriscado Nunes (Universiy of Coimbra), Nenad Stojanović (University of Geneva)

FR: University of Coimbra
TO: DATACTIVE, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Academic achievements, social engagement initiatives:
Sérgio Barbosa has been studying WhatsApp activism in Brazil for almost 7 years. He argues that a new type of political activist is emerging amongst contemporary social mobilizations in the XXI century: the so-called WhatsApper, a (digital) activist who intensely appropriates the chat app leveraging its app affordances for emerging forms of political participation in the Global South. The qualitative approach includes a long-term digital ethnography of two pro-democracy WhatsApp groups, chat scrapping, and several face-to-face, semi-structured interviews. It investigates how everyday activists connect their political activities with fellow group members, namely: i) how local communities adopt and appropriate WhatsApp affordances, ii) how these grassroots groups creatively enhance emerging action repertoires combining WhatsApp online chats with activities on the ground, and iii) how a progressive agenda to foster social change at the local level is intertwined with WhatsApp-mediated activism beyond US and Europe, contextualizing their use and appropriation in Global South countries.

Sérgio Barbosa (he/him) is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra, where he is part of the program "Democracy in the Twenty-First Century". Since August 2020, Sérgio has been a Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) fellow. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS), TU Graz. He is also a graduate affiliate at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, he was a Digital Humanism Junior Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna, as well as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) in Bochum, Germany. In addition, Sérgio was awarded with a Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) grant, as well as Sylff Research Abroad (SRA) and Sylff Research Grant (SRG). His research interests include the emerging forms of political participation vis-à-vis the possibilities afforded by chat apps, with emphasis on WhatsApp for digital activism and everyday social interactions, focusing on Digital Sociology, Digital Activism, Digital Literacy and Global South. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Political Studies Review, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, and First Monday, among others.

Summary of Support Program Activities:
The SRG grant will showcase WhatsApp digital activism in Brazil. Over the years, digital activism scholarship has been settled in the Global North. However, pro-democracy activists from the South are largely missing from this canon, as well as from much of the theorization and praxis-based analysis based in US and European contexts. With SRG, I will collect face-to-face interviews with the so-called Global South WhatsAppers.


To contact this fellow, email the Sylff Association at sylff[a] (replace [a] with @).