The (dis)connected refugee: The role of communication technologies in trust-building in Sweden and Germany
Graf, Heike - Professor
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies
The general public is currently witnessing large numbers of people fleeing from war and misery in their home countries. For many refugees from the Middle East, the most valued item out of their few belongings is a smartphone. In these extreme situations having access to a smartphone could mean the difference between life and death. Even when refugees have arrived at their destinations, smartphones enable refugees to access wide areas of information. This can support refugees finding some kind of security and predictability in the new unfamiliar environment, but can also create new forms of insecurity, including the risk of being misled.
Trust and confidence in information sources become decisive strategies in order to manage situations of unfamiliarity and risk. This touches upon a special concern in our project, that is, to analyze the role of modern communication technologies such as smartphones and other mobile and personal media for refugees in migration flows.
Our point of departure is that offline and online communications constitute specific situations and require different resources in order to establish stable social relationships that are based on trust. How do communication technologies such as smartphones and other mobile and personal media condition trust-building in refugee migration, and vice versa? By linking media and migration research to theoretical concepts of trust and distrust as developed by Niklas Luhmann, we will employ individual interviews with Arabic-speaking refugees (at least 20 interviews in each country, Sweden and Germany), meaning a life story based investigation that encourages reports of personal experiences. We will analyze entries made on social media, including images posted on Instagram or other photo sites in order to look at how life stories are narrated in social media. We will conduct a survey among our interviewees in order to obtain background information about media use. A PhD project is aimed at adding a historical perspective by exploring former refugees’ media use.