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Virtual belongings, dual identities and cultural discomforts: The role of Mediaspaces and Technospaces in the integration of migrants

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There are indications from both everyday practice and relevant scholarship that new media play a significant role in affecting both the formation and management of dual identities1 for migrants. Nevertheless, there is currently no scientific work that has empirically investigated the effect that new communication tools have on questions of dual identities, and cultural distress more generally. Therefore, an investigation of the impact of new media and technologies (such as free Internet video-calls), both on the integration of immigrants into host societies and the perceptions that those left behind form about destination countries, is timely. This article attempts to address this research gap both by drawing on the results of studies in different fields of research and by confirming consequent assumptions through a qualitative analysis of the usage of new technologies. Different disciplinary studies have demonstrated that those who are able to manage the mechanisms embedded in the formation of dual identity more successfully also experience less cultural discomfort and, consequently, show better patterns of integration in host societies (Butcher 2009; Nowicka 2007; Portes et al. 1999). Following these paths of research, the present study claims that frequent contact with those left behind can both drastically change perceptions of alienation and the cultural distress that immigrants might suffer when they settle in receiving countries, as well as influence the related perceptions that loved ones who are left behind form of destinations. That is, a better management of dual identity issues and the subsequent more successful integration of migrants could also positively influence the views of those persons in the communities of origin with whom they stay in contact through these new communication tools. Therefore, the consequences of using these new media and technologies in terms of both immigrants’ integration and the pictures that those left behind get of host countries will be the main focus of this article. Furthermore, an analysis of the images that companies employ in order to publicize free online video-call software contributes to an understanding of the target market that these companies have, and the needs that they envisage for their users. Thus, these images help us to consider whether the usage of these tools can indeed be related to migratory issues. In addition, an analysis of semi-structured interviews with migrants using free online video-calls will offer an in-depth insight into the effects of using these new communication tools for both the management of dual identities and the integration of immigrants.
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Keywords: cultural discomfort; dual identities; immigrants’ integration; immigrants’ transnationalism; mobile identities; new media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: United Nations University

Publication date: September 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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