This blog presents our collaboration and results of the research project ‘Narratives of Water (NoW): a cross-cultural exploration of digital hydro-citizenship in the UK and Brazil’, funded by Fapesp (the Sao Paulo Research Foundation) Brazil, and University of Warwick, United Kingdom. The project takes place between 2015-2017 and involves the team working together across continents and disciplines to explore the connectivities between stories, narratives, anecdotes and digital mediations of water in Sao Paulo state and the UK. The focus is upon digital communication, social media conversations and interactive media cultures.

The Team is Danilo Rothberg (Unesp) and Joanne Garde-Hansen (Warwick) and they have been working together since they met at the Fapesp/British Council funded Researcher Links workshop Beyond the Digital (AprScreen Shot 2016-04-07 at 16.42.31il 2014) at the City of Knowledge, University of Sao Paulo, co-organised by Prof Gilson Schwartz and Joanne Garde-Hansen. To find out more about this catalyst partnership, click on Fapesp’s March 2016 research news publication that celebrates the strategic collaboration between the Brazilian funding agency and UK universities and research councils.

The project Narratives of Water offers a unique opportunity to exchange knowledge on the emergence of what we are calling ‘digital hydro-citizenship’ in the UK and Brazil. Hydro-citizenship is already being researched in the UK through the AHRC project Towards Hydrocitizenship led by Prof Owain Jones, co-editor with Joanne Garde-Hansen of Geography and Memory: Explorations in Identity, Place and Becoming (2012). We need to extend this idea trans-nationally and learn from each other how to use digital and social media to connect people to water and issues of scarcity, and do this through observing, analysing and co-researching how people use media and technology to adapt and be resilient. Digital hydrocitizenship will be developed as a concept and process for offering distinct but connected social and cultural expressions of living with/without and managing water.

What do we mean by Digital Hydrocitizenship?

We are defining digital hydrocitizenship as the collection, recollection, expression and (re)circulation of narratives and local knowledge of water, managed/stored/shared through digital media by individuals, communities, businesses and water governance stakeholders (such as Sabesp in Brazil or the Environment Agency in the UK). A focus upon the symbolic with respect to the physical environment may offer opportunities for cross-culturally creating and organizing frameworks and methodologies for researching adaptive experience when coping with challenges brought by droughts, floods and other disruptions in water supply.

Why Brazil and the UK?

In terms of key attributes, literacy skills, media creativity and grassroots participation, Brazil offers the UK research scene a vast ecology of digital media techniques for telling stories, deep listening and voicing the marginalised. This is particularly important in the UK because policy initiatives and top down community engagement are not always successful in working with the public to understand the cultural and social values of water, from the bottom up. Brazil offers access to and examples of unique, creative, unorthodox, pragmatic and resource-lite social technologies for telling stories of water. For Brazil, with its complex macro, meso and micro politics of water governance (national, state, regional, metropolitan, basin, riverine, community and neighbourhood scales) the UK offers examples of co-ordinated and national policies of water and its management. Retreat of the state in both countries, in the context of austerity, may mean that communities create their own media and their own cultural values of water.