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Sérgio Barbosa

Centre for Social Studies (CES), University of Coimbra

Sérgio Barbosa

The rise of Global South WhatsAppers

Over the last decade, chat apps have become a central resource of contemporary mobilizations. Scholarly attention has recognized the centrality of social media platforms for collective action. However, little has been said about encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp. Yet, this smartphone application is today the many coordination platform of grassroots at the local/transnational level. This research investigates how the use of WhatsApp has become a gamechanger of emerging forms of progressive digital activism in the so-called Global South. It focuses on Brazil for specific reasons: the country has a long history of grassroots movements and a decade-long tradition of participatory democracy. Besides, it is one of the world’s biggest markets for mobile phones, with 43 percent of the population reportedly using WhatsApp to share news in 2021 (Reuters, 2021). The triangulation of qualitative methods includes digital ethnography, a content analysis of group chat data collection, and a number of semi-structured interviews. With CAIS, Barbosa is working on a forthcoming methodological article about the triangulation of qualitative methods to research WhatsApp (private) groups.

Main Research Topics

  • Digital Sociology
  • Political Sociology
  • Digital Activism
  • Digital Ethics
  • Global South

Curriculum Vitae

Since 2020 FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) fellow

2022 Visiting Researcher at University of Glasgow

2021 Visiting Researcher at Utrecht University

2019–2020: Visiting Researcher at University of Amsterdam

2019 SYLFF (Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund) fellow

Lectures and Publications

Barbosa, S. (2021). WhatsAppers for social good: networks of solidarity during COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil, policy brief, ICLD (Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy), Sweden. https://icld.se/en/publications/sergio-barbosa-2021-whatsappers-for-social-good-local-community-response-to-covid-19-in-brazil/

Barbosa, S. (2020). COMUNIX WhatsAppers: The Community School in Portugal and Spain. Political Studies Review, 1-8. doi: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1478929920951076

Milan, S. & Barbosa, S. (2020). Enter the WhatsApper: Reinventing digital activism at the time of chat apps. First Monday25(12). doi: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i12.10414

Barbosa, Sérgio & Back, Charlotth (2020). “The Dark Side of Brazilian WhatsAppers”, Jesús Sabariego, Augusto Jobim do Amaral and Eduardo Baldissera Carvalho Salles (org.), Algoritarismos. Tirant lo Blanch: São Paulo-Valencia, pp. 454-467. https://editorial.tirant.com/free_ebooks/9788418329715.pdf

Barbosa, S. & Milan, S. (2019). “Do not harm in private chat apps: Ethical issues for research on and with WhatsApp,” Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, volume 14, number 1, pp. 49–65. doi: http://doi.org/10.16997/wpcc.313

Forthcoming presentations:

2nd May 2022: Barbosa, S. 5-year research on and with WhatsAppers: 2017-2021. Governing the Digital Society PhD symposium: ‘Back to the future!’, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. https://www.uu.nl/en/events/governing-the-digital-society-phd-symposium-back-to-the-future

5-6 May 2022: Barbosa, S. Protest Mobilization on WhatsApp: Explaining Participants’ Approaches Before and During COVID-19. Voters and Political Parties During the Pandemic: Comparing the Baltic countries Conference, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University, Sweden. https://www.sh.se/english/sodertorn-university/calendar/events/2022-05-05-voters-and-political-parties-during-the-pandemic-comparing-the-baltics-eastern-and-western-europe

16-18 May 2022: Barbosa, S. Deliberative WhatsAppers. Revitalizing democracy through participatory democratic innovations ACT.WB Jean Monnet Network Final Conference, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade, Serbia. https://ifdt.bg.ac.rs/index.php/2022/02/04/cfp-revitalizing-democracy-through-participatory-democratic-innovations/?lang=en

Sérgio Barbosa

Centre for Social Studies (CES), University of Coimbra

Fellow at CAIS from April to October 2022