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Seminar DiasporasLab - Digital Migration Studies - Wed. May 30, 2018

Koen Leurs : Five Questions for Digital Migration Studies: Learning From Digital Connectivity and Forced Migration In(to) Europe

Building on the seminal Connected migrants manifesto by Dana Diminescu, a rich body of scholarship exists that has charted how media and communication technologies have historically played an essential role in the everyday lives of migrants across the world. Scholars have shown migrants maintained networks and relationships across distance and borders through exchanging letters and audio-cassettes, setting up diaspora newspapers, transnational radio stations, accessing satellite television, engaging in transnational telephone conversations and sending remittances. Scholars have also documented how satellite dishes, internet cafés and more recently smart phones and selfies have been projected in populist, right-wing and anti-immigrant discourse as symbols of threat, exclusion, and the supposed failure of integration and multiculturalism. Over the course of the last decade, the scale, intensity and types of migration and digital mediation have drastically changed and accelerated.

In this talk, I elaborate on the developing field of research of digital migration studies by bringing various threads emerging from two recently guest-edited special issues: “Forced migration and digital connectivity in(to) Europe” (Social Media + Society, with Kevin Smets forthcoming 2018) and “Connected migrants: Encapsulation and cosmopolitanization” (Popular Communication, with Sandra Ponzanesi 16(1), 2018) together. Taking the exceptional attention for digital mediation within the recent so-called “European refugee crisis” as a starting point, I reflect on the main conceptual, methodological and ethical challenges for this emerging discussion and how it is taking shape through interdisciplinary dialogues and in interaction with policy and public debate. My discussion is organized around five central questions: (1) Why Europe? (2) Where are the field and focus of digital migration studies? (3) Where is the human in digital migration? (4) Where is the political in digital migration? and (5) How can we de-center Europe in digital migration studies? Alongside establishing common ground between various communities of scholarship, Iplea for non-digital-media-centric-ness and foreground a commitment toward social change, equity and social justice.

Quentin Lobbé : Where the dead blogs are : A Disaggregated Exploration of Web Archives to Reveal Extinct Online Collective

The Web is an unsteady environment. As Web sites emerge and expand every days, whole communities may fade away over time by leaving too few or incomplete traces on the living Web. Worldwide volumes of Web archives preserve the history of the Web and reduce the loss of this digital heritage. Web archives remain essential to the comprehension of the lifecycles of extinct online collectives. In this paper, we propose a framework to follow the intern dynamics of vanished Web communities, based on the exploration of corpora of Web archives. To achieve this goal, we define a new unite of analysis called Web fragment: a semantic and syntactic subset of a given Web page, designed to increase historical accuracy. This contribution has practical value for those who conduct large scale archives exploration (in terms of time range and volume). By applying our framework to the Moroccan archives of the e-Diasporas Atlas, we first witness the collapsing of an established community of Moroccan migrant blogs. We show its progressive mutation towards rising social platforms, between 2008 and 2018. Then, we study the sudden creation of an ephemeral collective of forum members gathered by the wave of Arab Spring in the early 2011. We finally yield new insights into historical Web studies by suggesting the concept of pivot moment of the Web.

Léa Macias : What digitalization of humanitarian operations looks like: Data, maps and new technologies in Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan

Refugee camps are a standardized humanitarian response integrating narratives about a decrease in humanitarian funding and the critical step of assessing refugees’ needs. Beyond being a tool for distributions’ management and basic services delivery, humanitarian data is also a form of codified interaction between refugees and humanitarian workers. Maps and factsheets are becoming standard tools for humanitarian workers, also used as a resource for political power when used to make funding decisions. Therefore it becomes even more critical to observe, study and analyse humanitarian data developments, at both the global and local scales. It allows deconstructing the discourses and practices of the humanitarian world on-going heavy evolutions, especially regarding the use of new technologies and innovations. This presentation will be exploring the stakes of humanitarian data collection in a specific location: Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan hosting Syrian refugees since 2012.