Author: Fernanda Pires de Sá
Programme: Doctoral Programme on the Information and Knowledge Society
Supervisor: Dr Antoni Roig Telo, Dr Carlos Alberto Scolari
Faculty / Institute: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
Key words: Co-viewing, connected viewing, practice theory, communicative ecology, brazilian telenovel, online ethnography
The aim of this research was to identify and examine the main practices of connected co-viewing and user-generated content (UGC) activities while viewing programmes in the Brazilian prime-time telenovela genre. Although telenovelas can be considered a melodramatic genre, Brazilian telenovelas have a socio-realistic focus and are known for promoting political debate on subjects ranging from racism and homophobia to corruption, which makes them interesting for scrutinizing co-viewing. A participant observation was conducted over a six-month period to understand connected co-viewing practices through three case studies: two non-official, private Facebook groups, and one WhatsApp group. Semi-structured interviews and a qualitative survey were the methods employed for this research. As a new telenovela was to air, this period was selected in order to understand an ongoing phenomenon from its very beginning. For this research, a body of work on social practices and communicative ecology was cited. This study demonstrates that UGC is a practice that always requires the involvement of people. It was also revealed that for users who do connected co-viewing on Facebook, the act of giving an opinion or sharing any telenovela content means producing content, and this sometimes affects the content users receive on this platform, as they may receive excessive telenovela information or information from the users they interact with the most. Furthermore, through different kinds of engagement with UGC and by co-viewing practices, viewers considered whether a prime-time telenovela should be pure entertainment or should be mixed with educational purposes. They contrasted and reflected on their own personal experiences with the ways the telenovela they co-viewed portrayed the current socio-political events occurring in Brazil during its airing. Thus, it is shown that the features of the television genre, together with the features and agencies of the space where it occurs, might shape the way co-viewing engagement happens.