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Location, location, location: doing research on the island of Madeira, Portugal

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After living the last four years in Austin, Texas, I moved two weeks ago to the sub-tropical island of Madeira, part of Portugal territory. A few scholars I have recently met here claim that this place is a “research paradise”, after all this is full of beaches, mountains (great for hiking or levadas, as locals say in Portuguese), and over four types of maracujá (passion fruit, in English), which is by the way my favourite fruit.

The “research” aspect of the paradise is justified by the existence of the innovative Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-iti), where I am currently working with Dr. Valentina Nisi as a Postdoctoral Researcher. The institute is very international and it is focused on the field of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction). So, one can write academic papers, while looking into the sea and drinking all sort of maracujá-flavoured beverages (tea, fresh juice, cocktails); the passion fruit has naturally a tranquilizing effect. And the best about this place: unlike other beautiful cities around the world, the cost of living is very affordable!

The institute is a great fit for me, because Dr. Valentina works also with location-aware storytelling, the theme of my doctoral dissertation (see my older posts). In fact, along with an interdisciplinary group of scholars, grad students, and interns at M-iti, I am working on a project called Beanstalk that has a very strong location-based component. The idea is to disseminate the natural capital (e.g.: the number of endemic plants and its relevance) of Madeira through a package of location-aware tools, such as mapping and tracking. The project is also transmedia, which briefly means that Beanstalk will deliver content through different platforms. For example: 1) A location-based fictional story is being prepared to be accessed through a mobile app, which will enable tourists and locals to follow a footpath in the island and learn about certain places. 2) A webpage with video interviews with experts on Madeira’s flora as well as with residents who possess local knowledge about medicinal endemic plants is also part of Beanstalk.

If you want to learn more or follow the progress of Beanstalk, please visit this website: http://beanstalk.m-iti.org/about/

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About Cláudia Silva

Cláudia Silva is a Postdoctoral Research fellow at M-ITI (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute). She received a PhD in Digital Media from the New University of Lisbon within the context of the University of Texas at Austin-Portugal international doctoral program (May, 2016). For her doctoral dissertation, she worked with Latino communities in Austin, Texas, during four years, conducting ethnographic work and teaching different age groups on how to create grassroots location-based storytelling. At the University of Texas at Austin, her advisor was Dr. Joseph Straubhaar. At the New University of Lisbon, she was co-advised by Dr. António Granado. In Portugal, she has worked as an Arts Journalist for the national Portuguese newspaper Público. Cláudia has also published in the national Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, and in other regional and local Brazilian publications. She received a MA in Journalism from the New University of Lisbon, in Portugal (2009), and a BA in Social Communication (Journalism) from the Catholic University of Minas Gerais, in Brazil (2005). Her research interests are on digital media, locative media, location-based storytelling and mobile media, underserved and local communities, new technologies applied into social innovation and journalism. In addition to that, Cláudia is a fan of novels and literature, old and rare books, and she enjoys writing literary texts as well.

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