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Saturday, October 8 • 09:00 - 10:30

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Forced migration and digital connectivity in(to) Europe – communicative infrastructures, regulations and media discourses
Leurs, Koen (1); Latonero, Mark (2,3); Kift, Paula (3); Bozdağ, Çiğdem (4); Smets, Kevin (5,6); Siapera, Eugenia (7); Boudourides, Moses (8); Nikunen, Kaarina (9)
1: Utrecht University, Netherlands, The; 2: Data & Society Research Institute, NY; 3: New York University, NY; 4: Kadir Has University, Turkey; 5: Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; 6: Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium; 7: Dublin City University, Ireland; 8: University of Patras, Greece; 9: University of Tampere, Finland

Forced migrants, who are digitally connected, embody Europe's Janus-faced character in an age when technologies are celebrated for increasing communication speed and economic prosperity. As a result of different conflicts worldwide, forced migration has become a major challenge for Europe. The enormous death toll of migrants at Europe's borders, the reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen Area, and the violence towards refugees and asylum seekers in several European countries published across various social media platforms all attest to the way in which the current influx of forced migrants is overturning European society and political structures. Simultaneously, mainstream media devote significant attention to the situation of refugees along their migration routes in(to) Europe. Interestingly, these instances often included digital technologies as central anchoring points in the lives of refugees. Detailed reports were made of refugees using smartphones, keeping in touch with their relatives, or documenting their journey through social media. Other accounts, albeit less frequently, focused on the ways in which governments seek to deal with forced migration via digital technologies, for instance by making use of GPS tracking in smartphones, or by setting up online deterrence campaigns to discourage refugees to migrant to specific countries.
Topical urgency
While it is clear that forced migration and digital connectivity are intertwined, there is still a lack of in-depth, critical research into this topic especially in the context of Europe. With this panel we seek to bring together cutting-edge research on forced migration in(to) Europe. The panel aims not only to present empirical evidence for discussions about forced migration and digital connectivity, but also to offer new theoretical perspectives on the issue. Approaching forced migration as a complex societal, political and cultural phenomenon, this panel thematically focuses on how people are technically sorted; processed through communicative infrastructures in relation to European regulations and discursively constructed through visual, affective digital media flows.
This panel features five scholars from across the world who work from a range of geographical locations and draw on various, methodologies and theoretical paradigms.
• The first paper charts new digital infrastructures for refugee and migrant movement. Arguing that digital connectivity is as critical as roads and railways, the presentation teases out tensions between their benefits, risks and accountability. Refugees and migrants use this digital infrastructure to organize, locate and coordinate, but so do human smugglers and traffickers. Focusing on the understudied processes of social sorting of migrants, the paper tech and data-driven interventions are analyzed. The author makes a case for responsible data practices for highly vulnerable populations.
• The second paper focuses on EU’s regulatory infrastructure by addressing two questions: How do the EU’s information collection practices impact asylum seekers’ data protection, privacy and fundamental rights? And what can these practices teach us about the field of information privacy law and the nature of transborder data flows more generally? The paper focuses on the outsourcing of data-collection and two specific EU regulations, namely EUROSUR (drone and satellite surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea) and Eurodac (biometric information collection at the border).
• The third paper shifts its orientation towards the discursive construction of refugees. It presents a mapping of different visual discourses on refugees in Twitter in Turkey, a key transit country for refugees on their way to Europe. Inspired by research on iconographic tracking, the presentation will particularly focus on the travel of the iconic image of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year old Syrian boy whose washed ashore body was photographed in September 2015 by Turkish journalists.
• The fourth paper also considers the role of Twitter in mediating the European refugee crisis. Focusing on the November 2015 Paris attacks, the authors locate 12 affective publics in a large volume of tweets automatically harvested over a 3-month period. These publics engage in distinct forms of digital storytelling about refugees. The authors consider implications of the new social space of Twitter as publics coalescing around divisive, ‘othering’ affects and around humanitarian and solidarity-based affects.
• The fifth paper further develops the notion of ‘media solidarity’. Drawing on an empirical study of the Finish Facebook group campaign ‘Once I was a Refugee’ and transnational groups of the Finnish ‘residual’ online community IRC-G, the paper points out the possibilities and limits of transnational digital participation. It discusses conditions by which transnational voices and solidarities may travel to national politics and become heard.


Koen Leurs

Utrecht University, Netherlands, The


Moses Boudourides

University of Patras, Greece

Çiğdem Bozdağ

Kadir Has University, Turkey

Paula Kift

New York University, United States of America

Mark Latonero

Data & Society Research Institute, NY;nNew York University, NY

Kaarina Nikunen

University of Tampere, Finland

Eugenia Siapera

Dublin City University, Ireland

Kevin Smets

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium;nUniversiteit Antwerpen, Belgium

Saturday October 8, 2016 09:00 - 10:30 CEST
HU 1.103 Humboldt University of Berlin Dorotheenstr. 24

Attendees (2)