Profile of Mrs Lorena Melgaço Silva Marques University of Birmingham

Lorena Melgaço Silva Marques

General research interests

My fields of interest include ‘bottom-bottom spatial practices’, i.e. the understanding of forms of local agency within a global structure and their relation to the production of space; temporary uses of space; and the interrelation between space, communities and technology in urban and rural spaces. I am also interested in planning perspectives from the South and ways of dialogue with EuroAmerican theories of urban planning. I am currently postdoctoral research fellow on the ESRC/NRF project SAPER, that reflects on the South African planning education as means to discuss international planning education in the UK.

PhD/Postdoctoral Research Title

Socio-spatial practices in socio technological peripheries The introduction of internet in rurban communities in Brazil and United Kingdom

PhD Abstract

Despite the rapid incorporation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the
everyday of rurban communities (those where urban and rural elements mingle), especially in
the last decade, there is still a clear urban/non-urban gap regarding ICT access across the world,
suggesting the existence and emergence of both exogenous and endogenous socio-technological
peripheries. This can be understood as a global process present not only in the Global
South/East—perceived as peripheral—, but also in the Global North/West—regarded as advanced
and the motor of technological development. Locally, socio-technological peripheralisation
accords with existing socio-spatial practices and with the ways ICTs are being introduced in the
everyday. The interaction of socio-spatial practices and the internet, in turn, is part of an iterative
process, that leads to further particularisations in the socio-spatial and socio-technological
realms both in the Global North and South. This research focused on understanding the recursive
interaction between socio-spatial practices and the late introduction of the internet in
marginalised rurban communities. Its main premise was that there is an imbricated relationship
between the socio-spatial organisation of the communities and the way people appropriate
different sorts of socio-technical ensembles, in special, the internet. It also searched for
indications to whether its appropriation could foster micropolitics, “a situational politics based
on local knowledge and action”, in subaltern groups subjected to both the domination of ‘the
centre’ and the resulting capitalist social relations of production that stem from extended
urbanisation. To devise the research strategies, four requirements were considered: to approach
the object from different levels of analysis by using Lefebvre’s idea of social levels; to develop a
specific tooling to address these levels by grounding the research in a Marxian based theoretical
framework while using the Actor-Network theory as an empirical tool for the fieldwork; to
investigate communities in both central and peripheral countries in the same scale of analysis
by having case studies in Brazil (Santo Antônio do Salto and Noiva do Cordeiro) and in the UK
(Pendeen); and to focus on the marginalised by using the lenses of an extended urbanisation.
Noiva do Cordeiro is the main case study, while Santo Antônio do Salto and Pendeen are
supporting cases. The results suggest that global relations of dependency and the top-down
delivery of the internet contribute to the further peripheralisation of the rurban.