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CYBERACTIVISM IN THE STRUGGLE FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE CITIES – A RESOURCE FOR URBAN SOCIAL RESILIENCE? Edinéa Alcântara1, Timothy Beech2, Fátima Furtado2, Alice Lancellotti2, Luana Cazuza2 1

Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), edinealcantara@gmail.com tim.beech@gmail.com, 2UFPE, fgfurtado@hotmail.com, alice.lancellotti@gmail.com, luka_cazuza@hotmail.com

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Keywords: cyberactivism, urban resilience, quality of life. ABSTRACT In many cities around the world, online social networks have played a key role in the struggle for rights and for more sustainable, less unequal cities. In Brazil, this movement is relatively recent, and has tended to increase in the face of threats, crises or disasters that might adversely affect the rights, welfare or life of a city's residents, or the public interest. This article analyses the importance of such networks and their impacts in Nova Friburgo and Recife. In January 2011, Friburgo, in the Serrana Region of Rio de Janeiro state, faced the worst disaster in Brazil's history, with 910 deaths and over 310 persons missing in the region. After the disaster, various online groups formed, especially “Nova Friburgo em Transição Transition Towns” and others related to mobility issues. In Recife, the key example is the “Grupo Direitos Urbanos | Recife” (DU, urban rights group), with over 10,000 members; other groups focus on urban mobility and how to make the city sustainable. The increased visibility of the DU group is principally due to discussion of the impact of the Projeto Novo Recife, a residential complex made up of 12 towers approx. 40 storeys high planned for the Cais Estelita, a strategic central area with high land value and great beauty of landscape. Opposition to this project led to initiatives such as “Ocupe o Estelita”, inspired by “Occupy Wall Street”: on three occasions, citizens gathered at the site for a day of protest. In both Friburgo and Recife, these groups played a key role in effective protest at public meetings, in the media, and a range of “Occupy”-style events. The progress, achievements, and weaknesses of this form of activism, and lessons learned, will be analysed through an analysis of online posts, debates within the groups, interviews with leaders and members, and by participant observation at demonstrations, to assess the potential for urban social resilience. The evaluation will draw on the individual and collective attributes associated with resilience by authors including Melillo and Ojeda (2005), Adger (2000), Norris et al. (2008), Ravazzola (2005), and Godschalk (2003), as well as studies on cyberactivism and online social networks (Silveira, 2010). 8 individuals have been interviewed so far, and 17 public events and meetings attended. In both cities there is a virtual discussion of the city's future shape that is having a concrete impact on the real-world city. Both discussions were motivated by extreme situations with echoes of similar events in the past – a previous natural disaster in Friburgo, and a series of major projects in Recife that damaged its cultural and historical heritage. Though these movements arose from local urban issues, they show a clear kinship with broader struggles for participation and democracy elsewhere in the world. Their activities in online social networks have contributed to broader, more effective participation in discussions on local urban problems, as well as being a sign of social resilience in the face of crises, threats and disasters and in constructing more sustainable cities. This consolidation of the public sphere seems likely to contribute to improvements in governance, which is also essential to establishing resilient cities.

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1. CAN CRISES, THREATS AND DISASTERS IN CITIES PROMOTE CYBERACTIVISM? In recent years, the future of cities and the quality of life there has become a pressing concern. Some political analysts have diagnosed a crisis of representative democracy and argued for a stronger role for civil society, but nonetheless, citizen action, citizen initiatives, and protest movements are gaining in importance around the world. Citizen participation has become an issue to which governments are forced to pay attention. The focus varies from human rights to improving quality of life in cities. In many cities around the world, online social networks have played a key role in the struggle for rights and for more sustainable, less unequal cities. In Brazil, this movement is relatively recent, and has tended to increase in the face of threats, crises or disasters that might adversely affect the rights, welfare or life of a city's residents, or the public interest. The recent levels of the country’s growth have made it the sixth largest economy in the world, but the country is not finding it easy to reduce social inequality or mitigate the impact of economic growth on the environmental structures of Brazilian cities, currently augmented by a series of major public and private works associated with the 2014 World Cup. Brazil's current development model is strongly marked by growth in the civil construction and automotive industries. This is reflected in constant traffic congestion and structural mobility problems, as a consequence of the preference for major roads and individual transport during the second half of the previous century. The recent growth of the automotive industry may be attributed to the increased purchasing power of lower-income groups together with tax cuts and subsidies to promote the purchase of cars. Large and now even medium-sized Brazilian cities are increasingly paralysed by traffic congestion. The tendency is for it to get worse because the rate of automobile ownership in Brazil is increasing by 7% annually (IPEA 2011). Furthermore, civil construction has been stimulated by government initiatives such as the Growth Acceleration Programme (PAC) and the “My House, My Life” programme (PMCMV), as well as the increasing verticalisation promoted by the private sector. As cities become more urbanised the existing infrastructure is ever more overloaded. All this worsens the urban crisis, given that growth has not been accompanied by adequate infrastructure or planning. The impact on quality of life is direct, besides increasing disaster risk. The combination of rampant verticalisation, the urban mobility crisis, and disasters caused by hydrological events are approaching their limit in two different contexts found in Brazilian cities, but civil society is mobilising in the face of this crisis to seek more sustainable cities with better quality of life. Recife, a coastal city in northeastern Brazil, exemplifies the housing and mobility crisis, while the second scenario – natural disaster – is represented by Nova Friburgo, located in the Serrana Region of Rio de Janeiro state, which faced the worst disaster in Brazil's history, in January 2011. In both Friburgo and Recife, the emergence of groups of cyberactivists using social media played a key role in effective protest at public meetings, in the media, and a range of “Occupy”-style events. This article analyses the importance of such networks and their impacts. 1.1 The urban mobility crisis in Recife and the speculative pressure for vertical construction and skyscrapers as a focus for online and offline mobilisation Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, known as the “Brazilian Venice”, due to its location at sea level, as well as the presence of rivers and canals, has become a major city within Brazil, with the ambition to consolidate its position as a world city. Its geographical location, among the closest in South America to Europe, the international airport, the Suape Port Complex to the south, together with the state's economic growth, all add to this trend. The city – founded in 1537 – is one of Brazil's oldest, and possesses a world class cultural heritage: Recife's 2 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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carnival1, with frevo2, maracatu, and mangue beat, together with internationally recognised traditions of cinema, sculpture and literature. As the city covers just 218km, it is subject to strong density pressure and increasing verticalisation. The impacts are already irreversible, with consequences for tourism, where the beach is in shade from early afternoon. Recife is 21 in the world for tall buildings, and third in Brazil after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. (Diário de Pernambuco, 2011) Figure 1 – Projeto Novo Recife

The tendency to build skyscrapers is marked in developing countries, but Recife is an exceptional case, with permission granted for buildings around 40 storeys in the most expensive districts. Construction company Moura Dubeux built two towers (the “Twin Towers”) in the very centre of the city, with some of its best views. This is a striking example of the construction of very tall buildings without evaluating impact on existing urban infrastructure. A planned development along similar lines that has attracted mobilisation in society and the attention of the Ministério Público (the “Public Ministry”, to ensure adherence to the law) is the Projeto Novo Recife (PNR), a residential complex made up of 12 towers approx. 40 storeys high planned for the Cais Estelita, a strategic central area with high land value and great beauty of landscape, close to the Twin Towers. The project includes dwellings, hotel accommodation, business and cultural use, and leisure (Fig. 1). The site is in an area of high market value because of its beautiful views, so developers will be inclined to build at the limits of what the law allows, without regard for the collective impact made by a number of large projects like these. This project proposes a new use for an area in long-term decline to modernise the region and restore social life, but it cannot actually achieve these benefits on the basis of a model that pays no attention to the surrounding context, just the land plot occupied by the development itself. Such a lack of integration is all too common in building projects in Recife. The likely impacts include reduced natural ventilation behind the development, privatising one of the city's most spectacular views, pressure on local infrastructure and mobility, and spoiling the character of the landscape, without on the other hand achieving integration between the historic city centre and São José quarter and the contemporary character of the Boa Viagem area to the south. These and other concerns have mobilised society to protest against the project. The key example is the “Grupo Direitos Urbanos Recife” (DU, urban rights group), with over 10,000 members; other groups focus on urban mobility and how to make the city sustainable. The 1

Together with Olinda, Recife's carnival is recognised throughout Brazil for its diversity, and its democratic, inclusive nature. 2

In December 2012, UNESCO recognised frevo as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. This dance provides the rhythm of Recife's carnival, which attracts crowds of around 2 million. 3 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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increased visibility of the DU group is principally due to discussion of the impact of the Projeto Novo Recife, an iconic case because of its huge impact in a key area of the city and because it is riddled with irregularities. It thus exemplifies both the failings of the city's prevailing development model and its crisis of governance. The city's mobility crisis is another pressing issue. The local paper Diário de Pernambuco published this headline on 18 March 2013: “Recife residents take longer to get to work than in New York or Tokyo”. This data is confirmed in a study by the Institute of Applied Economic Study on the period between 1992 and 2009 (IPEA, 2013a). Recife's precarious mobility is one of the main sources of dissatisfaction for residents. Verticalisation is a path that will tend to make things worse. This explains the strong reaction against the project on the part of residents and professionals who can envisage its future impacts and multiplier effects. Opposition to this project led to initiatives such as “Ocupe o Estelita”, Ocupe a Prefeitura, Ocupe o Ministério Público, inspired by “Occupy Wall Street”; these have been able to slow down the project's progress, above all because of official and unofficial complaints regarding its irregularities. The project is undergoing judicial review. The 2014 World Cup has had a significant impact through major works to improve the road system, leading to increased land values both near the works and in central districts. This stimulates further verticalisation because of the city's small land area, leading in turn to more heat islands, traffic congestion, flooding, etc. These are the negative consequences of intensive urbanisation, deforestation, and the precariousness of public transport, among other factors. (Alcântara; Cavalcanti, 2013) Taken together, this means that inappropriate land use and occupation increase the city's vulnerability. High-impact projects in the centre demonstrate the pressure the city faces through property speculation. The main ones are shown in Fig. 2. Figure 2 – High-impact projects in the centre of Recife

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A related and broader question is the financing of political campaigns by private firms 2, some of them from the civil construction sector. As a result, mayors can be subject to pressure from lobbies representing the construction industry or other economic groups to approve projects in their own interest, in some cases against the public interest. This is an example of the complexity of the political forces in the background of planning questions and the attempt to think of the city as a whole. 1.1.1 The Group “Direitos Urbanos | Recife” (Urban Rights) It was against this background of real estate pressure in Recife, the mobility crisis, and large, high-impact projects that the Direitos Urbanos group came into being, established itself, and became an alternative focus for discussion of the urban chaos. One reason for the growth of the group was clearly people's need to discuss a project for the city which places the citizen at the centre of public planning policy and brings better quality of life, while reacting against the unsustainable status quo. The movement's initial focus was opposition to the demolition of the Edifício Caiçara, a residential building in Boa Viagem dating from the 1940s. The initial core of the group was formed by a group of people who knew one another off-line, and it then expanded through social media and began to act on its concerns, campaigning for the building to be protected. The group's next campaign opposed a law proposed by city councillor Marília Arraes whereby alcohol consumption would be prohibited in the street and bars would be forced to close by certain times, in order to reduce violence, but at the cost of effectively imposing a curfew on the city and denying access to an important social space, as well as reinforcing class divisions – working-class bars are more likely to use the pavement. The group has achieved significant recognition through the participation of six members as delegates (besides others as observers) in Recife's Fifth Municipal Cities Conference, under the rubric of Social Movements. The group's strategy has been to secure representation on each of the five working groups that have drawn up a proposal for the city's future. It now sits on the interim commission to set up the Municipal Commission for the City of Recife – the members will form the first Commission, serving till the next Conference. This achievement is all the more striking since the group is not formally constituted as an institution, so it shows the city administration recognises its importance to the discussion of the city's problems. When the group took its place at this Conference, it submitted a letter introducing itself: “the movement places itself at the disposal of civil society in Recife to contribute to formulating principles and strategies for overcoming the obstacles to making Recife a more humane, just and sustainable city.” (Direitos Urbanos, 2013). The document includes a list of the topics included in the group's agenda:

• • • • • • •

Collaborative monitoring of local government; Transparency and popular participation; Monitoring large-scale high-impact projects; Review of Recife's planning legislation; The need for integrated, long-term planning; Valuing public spaces and humanising the city; Opposing hygienistic and segregationist forms of development (Direitos Urbanos, 2013). 2

This issue may be better addressed if there is a reform of campaign financing law.

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The group organises its online activities around discussions of these topics, and particularly through an informed critique of Recife's urban development: among other aspects, the process of verticalisation, the privatisation of public spaces, and low investment in quality public services such as transport, urban infrastructure and environmental sanitation. The refinement of this discussion, mobilisation, production of texts, audiovisual material, etc., and debates all occur in virtual spaces. Various types of offline political action are also being adopted: the “Occupys” – Ocupe Estelita, Ocupe Agamenon, Ocupe o Ministério Público de Pernambuco, Ocupe a Prefeitura, Ocupe o Espaço Público; taking part in public enquiries; formulating legal challenges; petitions and public letters. Some events on the street involve more people than others, and one of those with the greatest impact was Ocupe Estelita, where over 1,000 participated and a letter with 6,880 signatures was delivered to Geraldo Júlio, the mayor. The group is organised in a decentralised manner, horizontally, with no formal leadership. Nonetheless, there are “natural leaders” who spend more time and are more involved in both offline and online activities, keeping the network motivated. The group also avoids links to political parties. 1.2 The post-disaster context in Nova Friburgo as a focus for mobilising society The second group analysed here is the Grupo Nova Friburgo em Transição Transition Towns, formed in Nova Friburgo, in the Serrana Region of Rio de Janeiro state, which faced the worst disaster in Brazil's history in January 2011, with 910 deaths and over 310 persons missing in the region. 429 people died in Nova Friburgo, 382 in Teresópolis, 74 in Petrópolis, 22 in Semidouro, and two each in São José do Vale do Rio Preto, Santo Antônio de Pádua, and Bom Jardim. 23,315 people were displaced and 12,768 without shelter in 15 towns (ANA, 2012). During the disaster, the population's initiative and solidarity helped save many lives. A number of NGOs and other online and offline groups were formed which were at the forefront of campaigns for improvements and a stronger focus on the part of public officials to solve problems and reduce vulnerability to disasters on such a scale in the future. 1.2.1 The Nova Friburgo em Transição Group Among the various online groups formed was the group “Nova Friburgo em Transição Transition Towns”. On 9th June 2013, the group had 833 members, and it was founded in 2011 with the aim of “Discussing and making proposals to the local government for taking action to promote sustainability, moving towards a more sustainable development model for Nova Friburgo.” (http://www.facebook.com/groups/friburgo.em.transicao/members/) The group used videos, articles and photos related to the topic of disasters to underline the point that practically nothing had been done since the disaster. They attacked the state governor for corruption, accusing him of misappropriating funds meant for the victims of the catastrophe. At the time there was a high volume of investment for the Olympics and the World Cup, but no really effective measures are being taken to realise the city's tremendous long-term potential as a tourist destination and a better and safer place to live. It was also pointed out that much of the shelter that had been built would have to be demolished and rebuilt in less risky areas. Besides these numerous criticisms, the group proposed examples to follow and the positive points to be learned from other cities where residents' satisfaction may reach 89%, as in Copenhagen.

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Video posts demonstrate the relevance and effectiveness of social network groups, for instance, the progress achieved by one group that had its demands read in the city council chamber. In another case a petition led to cancelling an event at the town hall. This underlines the effectiveness of network action. The population's solidarity during the disaster was recorded in newspapers, confirming interviewee statements. Local organisations and movements such as GAM (Nova Friburgo Umbrella Group) or Diálogos (“dialogues”) worked in the affected areas alongside international NGOs such as Brazil CARE and the Red Cross to improve the situation of the victims during and after the disaster both by providing them with assistance directly and through pressure on the authorities to carry out the works needed. The actions of civil society institutions, both those that already existed and the new ones that were created in response to the disaster, together with the social networks, played the preponderant role in the mobilisation, as well as democratising the discussion of local problems. Various groups that had their origin in the virtual world made real-world impacts through their struggles and demands (Alcântara et al., 2012) The removal of the mayor on grounds of corruption and embezzlement shows the level of mobilisation by society, including various members of the Nova Friburgo Transition Towns Group, as well as other groups and local civil society institutions. 2. RESILIENCE AS A RESOURCE TO OVERCOME CRISES AND DISASTERS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE CITIES The choice of economic growth as the central plank of Brazil's development model, bringing in its wake the effects on Brazilian cities already mentioned, has occurred against the background of a growing international recognition of the need to create resilient cities with the capacity to adapt sustainably to climate change, as embodied in the United Nations campaign “Making Cities Resilient: My city is getting ready!” (UNISDR, 2012) As a result of the crises, collapses and disasters that have faced cities worldwide, the term resilience has been cropping up more and more often in the literature on cities; at first it was used to refer to a city's capacity to keep functioning after facing natural or anthropogenic disasters such as flooding, landslides, earthquakes, while returning to a state similar to that prior to the event as quickly as possible. More recently, the term has been applied to planning sustainable cities. The Stockholm Resilience Centre defines it thus: “Resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about the capacity to use shocks and disturbances like financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.” (p.3). Resilience is here understood as a long-term capacity: “... for a society it can involve an ability to deal with events such as political unrest and natural disasters in a way that is sustainable in the long term. Low resilience may lead to undesired shifts in a system.” (p. 6) The UN report “Resilient people, Resilient planet: A Future Worth Choosing” (2012) uses the term in the title, another example of this broader usage, whether for people or the places they live. Uncertainties and risks should thus be given a privileged place in planning. On a local level, this means that if a city is to be sustainable, it must first and foremost be resilient. When considering the potential for resilience on the scale of a city, social networks are a factor that has become central.

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2.1 Relevance and objectives of this study Social networks can function to facilitate the dissemination of information and cyberactivism. Information can be made available on line almost instantaneously. This is relevant both for democratising participation and for communication in extreme situations of threats, crises, disasters, or accidents. Such networks may sometimes serve as an informal alert system. In the case of disaster this may prevent damage and save lives, or it may equally facilitate mobilisation in the struggle for rights and more sustainable cities. In both the localities studied, cyberactivism as seen in social networks, especially in association with the two groups in focus, showed its potential for promoting social resilience, as well as its role in social control strategies on the part of the community involved, that is, the members of the group in each case. This scope for communication and mobilisation may become very important in extreme situations – whether disasters or projects that represent a threat – as well as for public oversight and popular control in general. Since the mobilisation capacity of political parties, the union movement and even community associations has decreased, mobilisation through social networks has played a leading role in movements struggling for rights and against dictatorial regimes in cities around the world. This has translated into online repercussions, some of the best-known being the Indignados of Spain, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring. Manifestations of this tendency in Brazil have been little studied. Nova Friburgo and Recife represent large-scale mobilisations of society, one after a disaster, the latter in the struggle for projects in the public interest in a city subject to pressure from property speculation, increasing verticalisation, serious mobility and drainage problems, and a lack of public spaces. In both Friburgo and Recife, these groups played a key role in effective protest at public meetings, in the media, and a range of “Occupy”-style events. The objectives of this article are to: i) characterise and analyse the way both groups act; ii) identify and characterise the main impacts in the two cities; iii) establish the potential for urban social resilience in the struggle for more sustainable cities. 3. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK 3.1 Theoretical and conceptual underpinnings The vertiginous growth of social networks has attracted academic interest both through the impacts and through the power of communication and mobilisation among people around a specific cause. Bustamante (2010, p. 15) argues that the juxtaposition of citizenship and social networks shows that the growth of ICT (information and communication technology) means basic concepts of political philosophy need to be redefined in a multidisciplinary context: they are more than just a means of public oversight or a tool to make communicaiton more effective, and have become an important battleground for struggles around human rights. Bustamante argues that such networks enable the less advantaged to access freedom of expression and the right to information. He maintains (p. 17; 19) that this greater exercise of political power may lead to “hypercitizenship”, or digital citizenship. “The knowledge that informatics and telecommunications extend throughout the world is not a tool for reality description, but rather for reality construction.” (p. 21) As such knowledge becomes more decentralised and at the same time less marginal, new ways to exercise power over the self and others emerge: “The distances are canceled and the territory is deterritorialized by cyberspace, even if for a moment.” (p. 21) 8 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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In turn, the concept of resilience is broad in scope, including the idea of resilience as a process. The emergence of certain psychosocial, cultural and environmental conditions allow individuals, groups and communities to develop resistance and the capacity to deal with adversity and emerge with increased strength. Resilience may emerge on an individual or community level. Melillo (2005) defines the characteristics of the resilient subject as including: skill, adaptability, low susceptibility, emotional resistence, robustness, positive vital conduct, special temperament and cognitive skills, on the basis of a study by Kotliarenco (1997). Froma Walsh (1998), quoted in Ravazzola (2005, p. 8) underlines the need for relations to be permeated by conversations allowing shared meanings to be created regarding the harmful events, with narrative coherence and a meaning that lends dignity to the protagonists. This aspect in particular was prominent in both groups analysed. Turning to community resilience, Ojeda (2005, p. 48) argues that it can be described as a “tool of genuine Latin American pedigree that may be used without reserve in the fight gainst poverty and inequality”. Ojeda (2005, p. 50-3) identifies the following key elements of community resilience, which once again were observed in both groups:

• • • •

Collective self-esteem, when people feel pride in the place where they live; Cultural identity, that is, the incorporation of customs, values, idiomatic expressions, dances, songs etc., as inherent components of the group; Social humour, that is, the ability of some groups or collectives to find the comedy within their own tragedy; and Collective or state honesty means the decent and transparent exercise of public functions.

Ojeda also mentions some points found in other authors such as: “the capacity to produce authentic, participatory leaders, effective democratic everyday decision making, and the inclusiveness of society without discrimination” (p. 53). Adger (2000) defines community resilience as the ability of communities to endure external shocks to their social infrastructure. Resilient communities would thus be ones able to develop ways of dealing with challenges that arise. Godschalk (2003, p. 137) underlines the importance of human communities as the social and institutional components of the city, including both formal and informal communities: schools, neighbours, agencies, organisations, business, “task forces”. He emphasises that communities act as the city's brain, directing its activities in accordance with need, and learning from experience, because they should be able to survive and function under unique, extreme conditions. He concludes that a city without resilient communities will be extremely vulnerable to disasters. The hypothesis motivating this article is that social networks have a relevant contribution to make for effective mobilisation and public oversight of government actions. 3.2 Methodology This analysis was based on exploratory research in two areas of participant observation: the online and offline worlds. The progress, achievements, and weaknesses of this form of activism, and lessons learned, were explored through analysing online posts, debates within the groups, interviews with leaders, members, and by participant observation at demonstrations to assess the potential for community resilience. 9 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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The documentary basis in the virtual world was drawn from reading posts and comments, text files, photos, audio and video recordings of events and public hearings, the events, publicity material and campaigns created online and posted on the internet and Facebook pages of the two groups in the study: Grupo Direitos Urbanos | Recife and Grupo Nova Friburgo em Transição (Transition Towns). In the case of Direitos Urbanos online participation in the formulation of the letter to the mayor was also included, along with paticipation in closed online discussion groups aiming to articulate, mobilise and develop communication strategies. In the case of Direitos Urbanos, the offline events included the following public meetings and demonstrations, where the Group's participation aimed to improve accountability and oversight:

• •

• •

Ocupe o Cais Estelita – there were three demonstrations attended by over 1000 people; Ocupe o Ministério Público de Pernambuco – to protest on two occasions because the Public Ministry had removed its own official from her post while she was taking legal action against the construction consortium behind the Projeto Novo Recife based on a number of irregularities in the project. Also a demonstration at the Law Faculty in Recife; Invasion of Public Space – occupying the square, pier and cycle tracks around the “Twin Towers”, where access to the public had been cut off, in order to demonstrate how public space is under threat from private interests; Three protests at meetings of the Urban Development Council regarding the Projeto Novo Recife.

In Nova Friburgo, the main events attended were:

• • •

A demonstration on the first anniversary of the disaster, in January 2012, bringing together various civil society organisations as well as residents to protest against the state and municipal government's ineffectiveness in carrying out reconstruction works A hearing at the Municipal Council for the presentation of accounts, led by the state government, with the presence of the deputy governor, state department secretaries, mayors from the region and local leaders Meeting with umbrella group (GAM).

The observations and data collection for Direitos Urbanos in Recife were carried out from December 2012 to May 2013, while the dates for Nova Friburgo were December 2011, January 2012, before and after visiting the site, and from January to April 2013. However, the analysis included material produced by both groups from when they were first set up onwards. 4. ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION OF THE RESULTS In both cities there is a virtual discussion of the city's future shape that is having a concrete impact on the real-world city. Both discussions were motivated by extreme situations with echoes of similar events in the past – a previous natural disaster in Friburgo, and a series of major projects in Recife that damaged its cultural and historical heritage. Though these movements arose from local urban issues, they show a clear kinship with broader struggles for participation and democracy elsewhere in the world. Their activities in online social networks have contributed to broader, more effective participation in discussions on local urban problems, as well as being a sign of social resilience in the face of crises, threats and disasters and in constructing more sustainable cities. This consolidation of the public sphere 10 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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seems likely to contribute to improvements in governance, which is also essential to establishing resilient cities. 4.1 Analysis of groups' activities, their successes, and future perspectives The analysis of the two groups characterised their activities, identified their achievements and projected their potential for resilience in the context of each city. The analysis included: the local political and social context that encouraged mobilisation and participation; the main topics addressed by each group; the profile of members and the attributes of leaders and animators; the main results achieved and the bases of community resilience. 4.1.1 The local political and social context that encouraged mobilisation and participation In both groups, the first factor contributing to mobilisation was a major disaster or the threat of a crisis in the functioning of the city. In Nova Friburgo, the occurrence of the biggest natural disaster in Brazil led to over 900 deaths and 300 missing persons. The reaction of society saw the emergence of the Nova Friburgo in Transition Group together with other online networks and local social organisations (Community Articulation Group, Diálogos, Eu Luto, etc.) and international involvement (Brazil CARE, Red Cross). With the support of the Public Ministry, this mobilisation culminated in the replacement of the mayors of Nova Friburgo and Teresópolis on the grounds of mismanagement of resources and alleged corruption. Social networks have continued to play an important part in discussion and democratisation of local problems, through their power to bring together people from different social classes and groups, especially the middle class; in keeping with the worldwide tendency, it was key to articulation in the virtual world. The discussion around resilient cities had started. The group Nova Friburgo em Transição (Transition Towns) aims to follow the principles of the worldwide campaign for resilient cities, “Transition Towns”. In Teresópolis, a city near Nova Friburgo, the movement was led by Brazil CARE, with an important role played by community leaders, and saw the creation of the first NUDECs (Civil Defence Nucleus) as well as delivering an open letter to the mayor of Teresópolis advocating joining the UN campaign “Making cities resilient: my city is getting ready”, which offers a list of priorities for local government derived from the Hyogo Framework for Action3 for disaster risk reduction, to which Brazil is a signatory. By the time of the field visits in January 2012, Teresópolis already had 19 NUDECs, showing the multiplier effect of the Brazil CARE initiative. At the same time, there was an offline campaign against increasing bus fares, and this helped strengthen online networking. There are also campaigns for cycle routes and improved mobility in general, such as “Bicicletada Nova Friburgo” and “Apoiamos ciclovias em toda Nova Friburgo”. In Recife, the context that encourages people to mobilise is the crisis in the city itself, in mobility, in increased verticalisation, and in the implementation of high-impact projects that favour a growth model that will aggravate mobility problems and quality of life. This pattern of building tower blocks, their high surrounding walls and the fear associated with lack of security all contribute to the lack of life on the street, as discussed by Jacobs (1993). Awareness of this as a problem has been growing in various sectors of society. Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 – Priority Action 5 “Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels” 3

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Recently the response to the local government programme of temporary cycle paths on Sundays showed the strength of the population's desire to recover the life of the streets. These cycle paths become jammed with bicycles, often including the whole family. One criticism that has been made is the restriction to weekends, reinforcing the view of cycling as just a leisure activity. Despite its limitations, the programme has the virtue of stimulating bicycle use and encouraging people to use the streets, thus bringing back meaning to the city, even if it is only on Sundays, in place of the lack of security and isolation created by the high outer walls of new buildings. Various groups have emerged with specific objectives, but what they have in common is the desire to improve quality of life in the city and to fight for rights (SOS Corpo – Instituto Feminista para a Democracia, FMPE – Fórum de Mulheres de Pernambuco, Revocultura – Coletivo de Cultura Livre, FASE Nacional, Coque Vivo, Centro Dom Helder Câmara CENDHEC, Fora do Eixo Pernambuco – Rede de cultura formada por coletivos culturais independentes). Another set of groups promotes mobility issues (Bicicletada Recife (critical mass), Acorda Recife, Recife Parado, Calçadas do Meu Recife, Ameciclo, Salve o Cais José Estelita, Ocupe Estelita, Contra o Projeto Novo Recife). These all show the power of mobilisation and the potential for networking, and above all, the population's desire to talk about the city's problems. The Direitos Urbanos group now has more than 10,000 members, quite a large number for a group that is less than a year old. A new local administration came to power in January 2013, with improved prospects for dialogue. The relationship with the previous administration was marked by conflict, culminating in a move against the mayor led by members of the group on the grounds of improper administration. 4.1.2 The main topics addressed by each group Both groups focus on topics aimed at creating a more sustainable vision for the city, thinking of it as a whole: high-impact projects; land use and occupation, particularly verticalisation and increased density; preserving heritage; mechanisms to strengthen participation and democracy; checking up on and reporting irregularities and practices that are contrary to citizenship; mobility – cycle routes, pavements and roads, cars and infractions by drivers; public transport – improving quality and reporting irregularities; planning projects; educational, consciousness-raising posts, communication and media; mobilisation for offline events (public hearings, “occupy” events, campouts, organic markets, etc.) Nova Friburgo in Transition takes a holistic approach with greater concern for the planet, emphasising environmental questions, whereas Direitos Urbanos focuses on the problems of the city. 4.1.3 The profile of members and the attributes of formal and informal leaders Members tend to be drawn from various areas of knowledge (architecture and planning, the arts, communication and media, social sciences, culture, law, engineering, philosophy) that bring together technical knowledge with ethical and social concerns. These backgrounds complement one another, helping people to put their talents to use and raising the level of the discussion. The attributes of formal and informal leaders are fundamental to motivating discussion and keeping it going, and include: a commitment to the city; the obstinacy, courage and determination to struggle against the powers that be (private and public); prepared to offer more of their time than average; skill in online communication; ability to bring people together and form different groups that multiply around other specific issues related to improving 12 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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urban quality of life; creativity, critical capacity, intelligence, and knowledge of the city's problems. These qualities can be seen in the posts and comments. The horizontal structure of the group permits fluidity and freedom, without formal leaders, though natural leaders do emerge on the basis of their commitment and involvement. The leading lights of both groups also demonstrate many of the characteristics specified by Kotliarenco (1997, quoted in Melillo, 2005) for resilient subjects who are able to mobilise the group, as described above, section 3.1. 4.1.4 Main results achieved In Recife, Direitos Urbanos was responsible for the following results, either acting alone or with other groups: • Freezing the Projeto Novo Recife; • Freezing the project to build four viaducts over the city's inner ring road, the av. Agamenon Magalhães; • Petition to the mayor with 6.902 signatures; • Participating in the “Social and Popular Movements” section of the Fifth Municipal Cities Conference in Recife, leading to representation on the interim Municipal Commission; • Recognition of DU as an interlocutor for the new municipal administration from 2013, opening the way for more active participation by the group in the discussion as well as contributing to local government in the formulation of a new vision for the city; • Reaching a membership of 10,230, making for a broader, more vibrant virtual discussion space, promoting continual debate about the city's problems and creating concrete change with good prospects for continued participation and greater accountability. In Nova Friburgo, the group Nova Friburgo em Transição also made a contribution, in some cases as the leading voice in these successes and results: • Two campouts at the Praça Getúlio Vargas (in the city centre): the first on 15th October 2011, the second from 11-15 November, with 50 people camping and an average of around 2000 people circulating daily through the area of the demonstration. • Drawing up of Civil Society Emergency Plan between 12th December 2011 and 23rd May 2012, coordinated by NGOs Diálogo and Brazil CARE, with the involvement of over 700 people from 45 districts in creating 16 Territorial Emergency Plans in partnership with GAM (movement umbrella group), ECC@Social, Nova Friburgo Crisis Response Unit, and Nova Friburgo civil defence (Relatório Final PESC, 2012). The project was able to identify local capacities and weaknesses, and define priorities for reconstruction and improving quality of life. Over 50 meetings were held in four rounds. • Open letter to candidates for the mayoralty of Nova Friburgo, signed by 20 institutions and movements and 3,500 individuals during Occupy Nova Friburgo event. The letter included the request to take steps to make the city less vulnerable to climate disasters as well as the implementation of the UN's International Disaster Reduction Strategy “Making Cities Resilient”, to which the outgoing mayor had signed up, as well as to the PESC. • Festival da Terra (“Earth Festival”) to promote the local community economy by selling organic produce and ecological craft products, raising environmental awareness, including films and videos on ecological subjects, educational workshops, round table discussions of sustainable development, bio-construction, permaculture, healthy nutrition, holistic health, clean and renewable energy 13 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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Campaign to include Nova Friburgo in the Global Campaign 2010 – 2015 Making Cities Resilient – My City is Getting Ready! (ISDR, 2012) After the disaster in the region, significant progress was made in creating a new institutional framework for risk and natural disaster management in Brazil (Suassuna et al., 2013)

Obviously, major policy changes such as that in Nova Friburgo's approach to natural disaster management, or planning for mobility and land use, as well as improvements to accountability in both cities, are not the result of the efforts of any one political movement, group or institution alone. However, the actions and political pressure brought to bear by both groups are an indication that new forms of struggle for more sustainable cities may be successful, and they are in keeping with the contemporary world, including as they do the internet – and in particular, Facebook – as a tool for networking, mobilisation and public oversight. 4.1.5 Weaknesses Despite all the progress, achievements and positive results from the two groups in the study, some weaknesses were noted that may be useful points for these and other groups to consider: • The dependence on Facebook for communication can make it difficult to organise information, as well as potentially exposing mobilisation to monitoring by outside forces. Because of this concern, the need to improve online communication tools is already recognised • The lack of a formal institutional structure, and any physical space for meetings, can be an obstacle to generating formal proposals • The online movement is not matched to the same degree in the offline world. Sometimes events are only attended by 10% of those who said they would come • Internal disputes and disagreements, as is natural in any group can weaken them or put off potential allies • Free, horizontal engagement sometimes means it is difficult to count on people in practice 4.1.6 The potential for community resilience, and future perspectives Despite these weaker points, the groups showed many of the characteristics identified by Ojeda and others (see above, section 3.1) as cornerstones of community resilience. Most notably, both groups were active in their demands for public accountability, and showed strong signs of collective self-esteem and mutual support. That is, the cohesion and solidarity of the groups were essential to their success, and online networking and the use of social media made a clear contribution. The profile of the formal or informal leaders of both groups included qualities associated with good leadership and resilient subjects, such as creativity, determination, negotiating skills, commitment to the collective. In Nova Friburgo, the term resilience has already been formally adopted, because the mayor signed up to the worldwide campaign for resilient cities as a result of the pressure and mobilisation of groups and institutions. This scenario shows there is a basis for community resilience to grow in the face of other threats that may emerge.

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5. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS The cyberactivism of the two groups Nova Friburgo em Transição Transition Towns and Direitos Urbanos Recife has been analysed through observation of online posts on Facebook, and participation in offline events. This online mobilisation had concrete results in the offline world. In summary:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Online discussions on the city's problems and high-impact projects, with comments and suggestions Oversight of infractions, corruption, irregularities, and improper administration with mobilisation, official complaints and court action Demands for transparency, accounting for spending, and community involvement Checking up on the legality of large, high-impact projects Demands to change planning legislation In the case of Nova Friburgo, the demand for a sustainable and resilient city Demands for improved mobility and the preservation of the past and urban heritage as well as the environment Demands for more and better public spaces as well as for more human cities that take account of people The need for integrated, long-term planning Fighting gentrification and the expulsion of low-income residents in privileged areas of the city, which are attractive to property speculators Petitions to encourage administrators to commit to more sustainable cities, with large numbers of signatures and in partnership with civil society institutions Online mobilisation for offline events attracting large numbers, especially Occupy or Campout events in strategic areas of the city Freezing of high-impact projects (in some cases temporary) Replacement of mayor on suspicion of corruption and mismanagement of resources Contributing to national risk management policy, disaster response policy, the policy of the local administration, and local urban planning.

The two groups differ somewhat in their strategy, breadth and size of membership, focus and interests, but their discussion spaces both showed characteristics of a virtual agora to debate the city, with a real-world impact. This forum has fought to take its place in building a more sustainable vision for the city, with a focus on people, pedestrians, and cyclists. Their cyberactivism in regard to mobility and cycling made an important contribution to quality of life and the reduction of atmospheric CO 2 emissions. Overall, as a result of both groups' activities on social networks, it can be seen that administrators are on the alert and much more concerned to account for their actions. The action of individuals and groups in blogs and other Facebook groups has played a significant role in public oversight and the democratisation of information. There has thus been a significant positive impact on governance.This new pattern of activism offers an alternative in the crisis being undergone by representative democracy, opening up new participatory spaces that may serve in the struggle for cities that are fairer, more inclusive and sustainable, and even more resilient. To conclude, here is a quotation from the musician Carlos Leoni Rodrigues Siqueira Jr. of the group Kid Abelha, describing how the internet transformed his view of culture, politics and his own career: “With this neoliberal thing, we had lost the agora, the public space where we could talk about things and actually do something about them. With the internet, the opportunity for 15 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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mobilisation and being engaged became something else. Now you really can make a difference.” (http://revistaforum.com.br/blog/2013/01/o-direito-autoral-e-usado-como-umaforma-de-exclusao-social/). REFERENCES Adger, W. 2000. Social and ecological resilience: Are they related? Progress in Human Geography, 24, 347–364. Alcântara, E. and Cavalcanti. 2013. Resiliência e Capacidade Adaptativa: recursos para a sustentabilidade de cidades e comunidades. Annals. XV ENANPUR. Recife. Brasil. Alcântara, E. Suassuna, C. Furtado, F. Bezerra, O. 2012. Resiliência e Vulnerabilidade de Cidades Brasileiras: lições aprendidas com os desastres da Região Serrana do Rio de Janeiro e da Zona da Mata de Pernambuco. In: Annals. VI ENANPPAS Encontro Nacional da ANPPAS. Belém. ANA. Conjuntura dos Recursos Hídricos no Brasil. Informe 2012 [online] Available at: <http://arquivos.ana.gov.br/imprensa/arquivos/Conjuntura2012.pdf > [Accessed December 2012]. ANA – Agência Nacional de Águas. Bustamante, J. 2010. Communicative power, digital ecosystems and digital citizenship. In: Silveira, S. A., 2010. Cidadania e redes digitais - Citizenship and digital networks (org.). 1a ed. São Paulo: Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil, Maracá – Educação e Tecnologias. PP. 11-36. [on line] Available at: < http://www.readbag.com/cidadaniaeredesdigitais-br-files-livro>. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Diário de Pernambuco. Uma cidade verticalizada. Araújo, L. C. Em 09/02/2011. [online] Available at: <http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1318895 >. [Accessed 16 November 2012]. Godschalk, D. 2003. Urban hazard mitigation: Creating resilient cities. Natural Hazards Review, 4, 136–143. IPEA. 2011. Comunicados do IPEA No 113. Poluição veicular atmosférica. Instituto de Pesquisa Aplicada (IPEA), Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos da Presidência da República. [online] Available at: <http://www.cnt.org.br/Imagens%20CNT/PDFs%20CNT/comunicado_ipea220911.pdf >. [Accessed 14 May 2013]. IPEA. 2013. Ricos e pobres perdem cada vez mais tempo no trânsito. [online] Available at: http://www.ipea.gov.br/portal/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=17212&catid= 1&Itemid=7. [Accessed 27 May 2013]. IPEA. Pereira, R. H. M.; Schwanen, T. 2013a. Tempo de deslocamento casa-trabalho no Brasil (1992-2009): diferenças entre regiões metropolitanas, níveis de renda e sexo. Texto para Discussão. Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (IPEA). Melillo, A.; Ojeda, E. S. (org) 2005. Resiliência: descobrindo as próprias fortalezas. Artmed. Norris, F., Stevens, S., Pfefferbaum, B., Wyche, K., Pfefferbaum, R. (2008) Community Resilience as a Metaphor, Theory, Set of Capacities, and Strategy for Disaster Readiness. American Journal of Community Psychology, 41,1–2, 127–150. 16 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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Painel de Alto Nível do Secretário-Geral das Nações Unidas sobre Sustentabilidade Global. 2012. Povos Resilientes Planeta Resiliente: Um Futuro Digno de Escolha. Nova York: Nações Unidas and FUNAG Fundação Alexandre Gusmão. Ravazzola, M. C. 2005. Resiliências Familiares. In Resiliência: descobrindo as próprias fortalezas. Artmed. Silveira, S. A., 2010. Cidadania e redes digitais - Citizenship and digital networks (org.). 1a ed. São Paulo: Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil, Maracá – Educação e Tecnologias. [on line] Available at: < http://www.readbag.com/cidadaniaeredesdigitais-br-files-livro>. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Suassuna, C.; Furtado, F. and Alcântara E. 2103. Disaster Risk Management in Brazil and Urban Resilience: progress and challenges. In: Annals. Planning for Resiliente Cities and Regions Joint Congress AESOP-ACSP. Dublin. ISDR. 2012. Johnson, C. and Blackburn, S. Making Cities Resilient: My city is getting ready! A global snapshot of how local governments reduce disaster risk. Report 2012. INTERNET SOCIAL NETWORK REFERENCES Direitos Urbanos | Recife Acorda Recife. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/groups/acordarecife/ >. [Accessed 27 May 2013]. Bicicletada Recife. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/groups/bicicletadarecife/ >. [Accessed 27 May 2013]. Blog Direitos Urbanos – <http://direitosurbanos.wordpress.com/ >. [Accessed 29 November 2012]. Calçadas do Meu Recife. [online] Available at: <https://www.facebook.com/groups/calcadasdomeurecife/files/ >. [Accessed 28 December 2012]. Comunidade Direitos Urbanos. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/DireitosUrbanos?ref=ts&fref=ts >. Accessed 29 November 2012. Contra o Projeto Novo Recife – <http://www.facebook.com/groups/311111685607561/ >. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Direitos urbanos. 2013. Carta ao prefeito Geraldo Júlio. [online] Available at: <https://www.change.org/pt-BR/peti%C3%A7%C3%B5es/carta-ao-prefeito-do-recife-geraldoj%C3%BAlio>. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Grupo Direitos Urbanos. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/groups/direitosurbanos/415259715238280/?notif_t=group_activity >. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Direitos Urbanos | Recife. [online] Available <http://www.facebook.com/groups/direitosurbanos/ >. [Accessed 9 June 2013].

at:

Ocupe Estelita. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/groups/329823277077513/ >. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. 17 | ALCANTARA (et al.) / Cyber-activism in the struggle for more sustainable cities


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Salve o Cais José Estelita. [online] Available <http://www.facebook.com/groups/348480681859986/ >. [Accessed 9 June 2013].

at:

Nova Friburgo em Transição (Transition Towns) Apoiamos ciclovias em toda Nova Friburgo. [online] Available <http://www.facebook.com/groups/457410124274876/ >. [Accessed 9 June 2013].

at:

Bicicletada Nova Friburgo. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/bicicletada.novafriburgo?ref=ts&fref=tshttp://www.facebook.com/g roups/348480681859986/>. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Grupo Articulação dos Movimentos Nova Friburgo. [online] Available at: <http://gamnf.blogspot.com.br/>. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Grupo Nova Friburgo em Transição (Transition Towns). [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/groups/friburgo.em.transicao/?ref=ts&fref=ts >. [Accessed 9 June 2013]. Nova Friburgo em Transição. [online] Available <http://novafriburgoemtransicao.blogspot.com.br/>. [Accessed 9 June 2013].

at:

Relatório Final PESC. 2012. [online] Available at: <http://www.facebook.com/groups/friburgo.em.transicao/files/>. [Accessed 9 June 2013].

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CYBERACTIVISM IN THE STRUGGLE FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE CITIES – A RESOURCE FOR URBAN SOCIAL RESILIENCE?  
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