Walk Again Project – A case-study of Brazilian media coverage

Walk Again Project – A case-study of Brazilian media coverage

Author: Luí­s Amorim

Back in 2011, Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, a prominent researcher at Duke University (USA), announced that he would make a quadriplegic child operate an exoskeleton with his brain and then kickoff the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. The event would highlight the first public appearance of the Walk Again Project, coordinated by Nicolelis.

The objective of this study was to analyse the coverage carried by the major Brazilian newspapers Folha de São Paulo, Estado de São Paulo and O Globo about the Walk Again Project and the symbolic kickoff of the World Cup. We selected stories published between May 2011 and July 2014. Our preliminary analysis shows that the coverage in question contradicts in many ways the traditional way of covering science topics in Brazil.

Generically, we can say that science tend to be portrayed with an indelible aura, as if it wasn’t an activity subject to the same decision-making processes and disputes that permeate any other human activity. But our corpus presents a coverage that exposes the conflict between researchers and disputes over financial resources.

Another distinction is the representation of scientists; usually, they are portrayed in the media as cold, rational and far away from any personal disputes; in our case, the main character of the coverage, neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, is passionate, fanatic supporter of his football team, charismatic, stripped, popular but also controversial, egocentric and megalomaniac.