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Accepted Paper:

Beyond Infrastructure: The Digital Dimension of a Residential Block  
Alice Roberte De Oliveira (University of Brasilia)

Paper short abstract:

The paper, originating from an ethnography of a Brazilian residential block, discusses how digital technology shapes the daily lives of its inhabitants. On WhatsApp, residents foster bonds, manage public and private domains, discuss common goods, and mirror Brazil's micro-level political context.

Paper long abstract:

Residential blocks are complex ecosystems guided by norms and regulations to balance interests and sustain conviviality. This dynamic has been transformed by a digital dimension that exerts an agenda on the infrastructure of the building and on sociability of residents, being used to fulfil a wide range of material, symbolic, and emotional needs. Through WhatsApp, residents trade and sell items, establish social bonds, provide emotional support, build trust and cohesion, care for those in need, facilitate communication, acquire information, participate in activism, and advocate for transparency in the property manager's actions. The platform is also used to engage residents and democratise discussions about their property and common goods, such as infrastructure, water, silence, safety, and privacy. This paper originates from an ethnography conducted in a residential block with 438 flats in Brasilia, Brazil's capital and bureaucratic hub. It is part of an ongoing PhD project that discusses how infrastructure, bureaucracy, and sociability are entangled by digital technology in the contemporary conceptualisation of residential blocks; and how digital technology becomes intertwined with the daily lives and routines of their inhabitants. The fieldwork relies on participant observation, interviews, and engagement in digital spaces. Through the interdisciplinary lenses of digital anthropology (Miller et al, 2021; Horst; Miller, 2012) and communication studies (Sodré, 2014), the study highlights how digital interactions reconfigure the boundaries between streets, common areas of the block, and home interiors of the residents, and finally, how these interactions come to mirror the broader political dynamics of Brazil at a micro level.

Panel P036
Digital ethnography and experiences from the Global South
  Session 2