The e-Diasporas Atlas

The e-Diasporas Atlas is a unique experiment in research on diasporas as well as in publishing, a first in the restitution of scientific findings and their presentation. Historically, the emergence of e-diasporas occurred in tandem with the diffusion of the Internet and the development of multiple online public services. At the end of the 1990s, a number of institutions joined forces with the new ‘e’-technologies (e-administration, e-democracy, e-education, e-healthcare, e-culture, e-tourism), which gave rise to the first presence on the Web of associations run by migrant populations. If the earliest websites were produced by IT professionals, we soon saw the diffusion of the Web in all of the diasporic communities and at all levels. The last ten years witnessed the use of both Webs 1.0 and 2.0 in these communities as well as the widespread appropriation of the various social-networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.). These new communication and organization practices have produced a vast, moving e-corpus, whose exploration, analysis and archiving have never before been attempted. The outcome of the efforts of more than 80 researchers worldwide, the e-Diasporas Atlas is the first of its kind, with some 8,000 migrant websites archived and observed in their interactions.

A migrant site is a website created or managed by migrants and/or that deals with them (at any rate, a site for which migration or diasporas is a defining theme). This can be a personal site or blog, the site of an association, a portal/forum, an institutional site, or anything similar. Usage is not the criterion: a site often consulted by migrants (a media site, for example) is not necessarily a migrant site. What distinguishes ‘activity’ is first and foremost the production of content and the practice of citation (hyperlinks). On the other hand, a migrant site need not necessarily be located in a foreign country; it may just as easily be in the country of

origin. Migrant sites testify to a given e–diaspora’s occupation of the Web.
What we call e-diaspora is a migrant collective that organises itself and is active first and foremost on the Web: its practices are those of a community whose interactions are ‘enhanced’ by digital exchange. An e-diaspora is also a dispersed collective, a heterogeneous entity whose existence rests on the elaboration of a common direction, a direction not defined once and for all but which is constantly renegotiated as the collective evolves. An e-diaspora is an unstable collective because it is redrawn by every newcomer. It is self-defined, as it grows or diminishes not by inclusion or exclusion of members, but through a voluntary process of individuals joining or leaving the collective – simply by establishing hyperlinks or removing them from websites.

An e-diaspora is both ‘online’ and ‘offline’. We are therefore interested in both the digital ‘translations’ of ‘physical’ actors/phenomena (the online activities of associations, for example) and the specifically (‘natively’) digital actors/phenomena (e. g. a forum and its internal interactions), what are sometimes called pure players. The question of ‘rub–offs’ – reciprocal influence between these two sorts of Web entity – is of capital importance in analysing an e–diaspora. It is thus clear that the research carried out in the context of the e–Diasporas Atlas presupposes knowledge of the diaspora in question and, based on exploration of the Web, calls on new research in the field. It also implies knowledge of the Web and an appreciation of the singularity of the exchanges that take place there.
We prefer the term ‘e–diaspora’ to that of ‘digital diaspora’ because the latter may lend to confusion given the increasingly frequent use of the notions of ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’, in a ‘generational’ sense (distinguishing those born before from those born during/after the digital era). The object of the e–Diasporas Atlas is not this ‘digital migrant’, however, but the connected migrant. (Read more about the concept…)

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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