Enhancing Cultural Studies through a Web-Enabled Database: The Sights and Sounds of the Emerging Culture of the MST

By Else R. P. Vieira.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The web-enabled database "The Sights and Sounds of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (Movement of the Landless Workers of Brazil)" projects, through more than 500 resources across several media, the expressions of over twenty million dispossessed people who formalized this major Social Movement in 1984. This bilingual database (in Portuguese "As Imagens e as Vozes da Despossessão: A Luta pela Terra e a Cultura Emergente do MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra do Brasil)" can be accessed at "www.landless-voices.org" .The international and interdisciplinary project that gave rise to it featured the first-hand collection of the "sem-terra´s" own voices and images to validate their self-expression and to fill major gaps in existing research material. This paper initially contextualizes the Social Movement and the Project. It then describes the database’s tripartite presentation (the "sem-terra’s" own expressions; the voices of those who speak "with" and of those who write "about" them). A discussion of the Project’s bridging of the Humanities and Information Technology runs through the paper. Focal points in the interdisciplinary dialogue between the research director and academic editor (Dr. Else R. P. Vieira) and the designer and producer of the web-enabled database (Dr. John Walsh) include: the advantages of multimedia and of the hypertext to convey the specificity of the "sem-terra´s" cultural expressions across several media; the software developed to translate complex concepts of culture into technological tools; the development of multiple routes to the resources to enhance research and learning tools and to prompt reflection. The achievements of the Project’s collaborative work are discussed with particular reference to scholarship, transferability, public reach and, crucially, its contribution to the culture it protagonizes.

Keywords: Database, MST Culture, Data Collection, Categorization, Plurality of Expressions, Media Specificity, Interactivity, Multiple Routes, Research Tools

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 2, Issue 8, pp.115-128. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.486MB).

Prof. Else R. P. Vieira

Queen Mary, University of London, UK

Else R P Vieira is a Reader in Brazilian and Comparative Latin American Studies, at Queen Mary, University of London; former Visiting Professor at the Centre for Brazilian Studies, University of Oxford (1999) and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham (2001-02); previous career in Comparative Literature at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Among her major projects, she is the Director of Research and Editor of the web-enabled database "The Sights and Images of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (www.landless-voices.org)". Her present AHRB-funded project involves a comparative study of 21st century social documentaries in Brazil and Argentina. Among her most recent books is "City of God in Several Voices: Brazilian Social Cinema in Action" (London, 2005). Webpage: http://www.modern-languages.qmul.ac.uk/staff/vieira.html

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