A theoretical reflection on immigrant young people's construction of online identity

TitleA theoretical reflection on immigrant young people's construction of online identity
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Bailén, A. H., and Y. M. Suárez
Affiliation (1st Author)Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Section or WGAudience Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeAUDW4b
Slot Code (Keyword)AUDW4b
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleYouth Media Consumption: Behaviour and Practice I
Submission ID5896

Existing research has analyzed different cultural adaptation strategies that overseas immigrant people live in their every-day life. In this area, many researchers have studied how being immigrant affect young people's construction of personal identity. Migration opens new choice perspectives and possibilities which, in many times, are clearly different from those of the origin country (Kymlicka, 1996). In one hand, identity is theorized as a flexible phenomenon (Melucci, 1997) and, in the other, the idea of hybrid identity is essential, although it is not exclusive to immigrant population. Transnational migration as well as the rapid growth of sophisticated information and communication technology vigorously intensifies cultural exchanges in a global society (Hannerz, 1996). However, their cultural adaptation in the digital (virtual) world remains largely unexplored. Pfister and Soliz (2011) propose that intercultural communication should be reconceptualized in a networked society. Digital media offers new spaces (big scale: many to many) of intercultural communication and new modes of self-representation. Social Networking Sites (SNS) specifically are tools that involve both privacy and public spheres, broadcasting and one-to-one messages, and facilitate interpersonal and group communication. Cultural adaptation has been a long existing challenge for overseas immigrant people living in Western countries and the emergence of SNS has provided an alternative and innovative way to connect with the own sociocultural group and with the others. We have just started qualitative field work in three cities of Spain (Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid) and we will be able to analyze empirical data since May 2013. Therefore, this paper aims to explore immigrant youth’s digital management identity by reviewing recent studies, especially those analyses whose theoretical framework is intercultural communication. The study, founded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (ref.: CSO2011-24376), focuses on three basic axes:  -       Digital Gap. Inequities in access in general (Morley, 2001) and, in particular, gender inequality that affects access, availability and use of digital media between women in minority ethnic groups (Huertas and Martínez, forthcoming).  -       Online identity as a context-mediated activity.  “Constructing a personal identity is an activity much more complex than elaborating a series of online profiles, which are only digital hints of the Self” (Durante, 2011: 594). Social Capital (Bourdieu’s concept) is therefore a crucial notion. In fact, it is used widely in SNS analysis. Many studies examine the relationship between popular online social network sites and the formation and maintenance of social capital taking into account psychological well-being (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007).  -       Native-Local-Global. Among immigrant people, identity is shaped by the convergence of the ‘native’, ‘local’ and ‘global’ (Giddens, 1991; Ernst & Moser, 2005). Matters of belonging and participation were thus also discussed in terms of nationality, ethnicity and religion.

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