Researching digital media technologies and social inclusion of refugees

Dr. Amanda Alencar from Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication was awarded the Stichting Erasmus Trustfonds Grant for her research project "Refugee settlement, place-making and digital technologies in the cities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam". She will develop this project in connection with the Vital Cities and Citizens (VCC) Erasmus Initiative and it’s a part of the VCC subtheme Inclusive Cities and Diversity. This 15-month project aims to explore how digital media can be effectively and creatively used to shape the actions of local governance actors for the emancipation and participation of refugees as new citizens of their host community. 

In order to do so, this project integrates a multi-stakeholder perspective into the analysis of interactions between digital media and integration initiatives for/with and by refugees. Throughout the different project activities, it will be possible to further examine refugees’ engagement with technologies to recreate a sense of place and to simultaneously provide a more nuanced perspective on the digital governance of refugee settlement in the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 

In line with the objectives of the ‘Vital Cities and Citizens’ Erasmus Initiative, Dr. Alencar hopes to identify the conditions that can propel more meaningful, inclusive and ethical technological developments and uses to enhance refugee agency and inclusion. This is particularly relevant in a moment where technological transformations (e.g., Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) are increasingly driving the demand for public information and communication policies. 

Societal Impact

The findings from the project will inform the co-creation of a toolkit for a digital/data/design literacy workshop dedicated to the interests and needs of refugees, as well as policy recommendations regarding technology access, use and provision for refugees across various contexts in both Dutch cities. Throughout the duration of this project, critical discussion points about the interviews and conversations with refugee and management actors, as well as about the digital/social media platforms analyzed will be shared on the website that will be set up for this project. 

Research Team

Amanda Alencar (PI) is a digital migration scholar specialized in the study of media and social media in Europe and Latin America, with a focus on how communication technologies are shaping mobility and sociocultural integration processes of (forced) migrants. She is Associate Professor in the Department of Media & Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Vice Chair of the Intercultural Communication Division within the Intercultural Communication Association (ICA). Amanda was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre (Oxford University) and Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Amsterdam. She is currently guest editing two special issues in the (open-access) peer-reviewed journals International Journal of Communication and Media and Communication on the intersections between refugee integration, digital economy and urban spaces, as well as on the topic of Media and Migration in the Covid-19 Pandemic: Discourses, Policies and Practices in Times of Crisis. 
 
Camila Sarria Sanz (Junior researcher) is a communication designer and holds a master's degree in media studies from the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She currently runs her own social enterprise in Colombia, which specializes in training change-makers using social entrepreneurship and participatory design tools to develop high-impact projects. In 2017 she started her academic career and since then she has worked on different research projects mainly developed through qualitative methods. Her research interests include indigenous media practices, forced migration, citizens’ media, and design thinking methodologies.

Vital Cities and Citizens

With the Erasmus Initiative Vital Cities and Citizens Erasmus University Rotterdam wants to help improve the quality of life in cities. In vital cities, the population can achieve their life goals through education, useful work and participation in public life. The vital city is a platform for creativity and diversity, a safe meeting place for different social groups. The researchers involved focus on one of the four sub-themes:

•    Inclusive Cities and Diversity
•    Resilient Cities and People
•    Smart Cities and Communities 
•    Sustainable and Just Cities

VCC is a collaboration between Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB), Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).