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Teresa Ribeiro Boulting
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Xama Network: Internet at Your Fingertips!
Through an analysis of the internet's present in Brazil and their accessibility, my research understood the internet as simultaneously material and immaterial, simultaneously technical and political, culminating in a proposal to explore and interpret beauty salons as a physical manifestation of already existent social networks.
The research began in an attempt to understand where the internet is present and how this evolution occurred and occurs in very specific ways. Since 2003, the number of Brazilians with access to the internet has been steadily increasing, which on the surface might appear to represent a very considerable progress, but, on deeper examination, it transpires there has not been an equivalent shift in the pre-existing disparity of access characterised by differences in socio-economic and geographical status. The percentage of the population in rural areas with access to the internet is only 34%. In 2017, for the first time in the Brazilian Internet Committee’s research, the proportion of users that accessed the internet solely through their mobile phones surpassed those that used mobile phones in conjunction with any other device. This is where zero-rating comes in. Zero rating is a practice whereby mobile companies will offer special packages where data used up in particular apps will not be deduced from one’s total data allowance.
The proposal is to use salon networks which are already present in great numbers throughout urban and rural Brazil as a space enabled to provide unfettered internet use in an attempt to counteract the negative effects of the restrictive ‘internet’ experienced by great portions of the rural population stemming from the preponderant presence of zero rating practices.
Using this existing physical social network means that the mediating device of the mobile phone where one’s traffic is restricted by telecoms, is now negated. It is an attempt to tap into the habitual routine of the population as an alternative to Facebook’s stronghold on people’s experience of the internet. Furthermore, the significant presence of physical proximity affects how one receives, delivers and accepts or rejects news, or gossip.
The beauty salon is a place where people meet, they get a service, they socialise, initiating a dialogue. When that dialogue is connected with the possibility of providing an extra ‘service’, which is lacking in these communities, the project is initiated by the community using that place.
Here one understands how much of an impact tabloids and fake news have on politics and culture and values; and importantly how ‘gossip’ networks such as the salon can have an equally powerful impact in breaking the dependancy on the telecoms and their zero rating practices. The arrangement of bodies in a space is largely determined by their backdrop in which the physical architecture of space moulds the social architecture of gossip and communication.
The idea of using these existing beauty salons suggests following in the footsteps of an already established line of thinking, with its own continuity and drawing on a Brazilian culture and its parties, which, since colonial times, has been a constituent factor in the formation of relationships and modes of behaviour. It is one of the country's preferred languages. Through them, a lot of experiences, future expectations and social images are translated.
School of Architecture
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Teresa Boulting is an architectural designer and spatial practioner. Following her architecture undergraduate degree from the University of Edinburgh she has worked in practices in Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and London. Since joining the RCA to complete her architectural studies she developed an interest in critical research and design as a means of interpreting the habitual as an ongoing construction of history.
- BA Architecture, University of Edinburgh, 2016
- Architectural assistant, Sauerbruch Hutton, Berlin, 2015; Architectural assistant, Bernardes Arquitetura, Rio de Janeiro, 2015; Architectural assistant, MATT Architecture, London, 2016–17
- Manifesta12, Biennial Research Studios, Palermo, 2018