What is this research about?
This article looks into ways in which existing studies address the possibilities and vulnerabilities of mobile communications, the social conditions, and the agency of refugees in engaging with mobile technologies in the different temporal and spatial dimensions of their migration trajectories.
What did the researchers find?
"Over the past decade, an expanding literature has explored the ways in which refugees rely on mobile communication technologies to stay in touch with a wider community and to access relevant information and services in their new places. Nevertheless, challenges linked to (a lack of) digital literacy and accessibility among refugees, and associated risks of technology use can negatively affect their empowerment and participation in a 'mediatized' society."
Some key observations from the researchers:
- The use of smartphones by refugees en route is emphasized by current studies to be of critical importance for planning migration routes and reducing the costs of travel - location-based affordances of the smartphone emerged as vital for refugees to progress in their journey, or in the case of an emergency situation
- Refugees draw greatly on social networks to gain knowledge about asylum procedures - smartphones have expanded migration networks that can facilitate the organization of migration journeys
- studies highlight problems regarding the lack of credible information emerging from social media ties, as refugees on the move experience a condition of “information precarity”
- A predominant theme found among the studies analyzed concerns the intersections between affects, emotions, and mobile media practices by refugees living in prolonged conditions of uncertainty - mobile technologies play an important role in refugees' maintaining interpersonal connections - they can also increase emotional stress among refugees
- The use of mobile technologies among refugees experiencing resettlement has been associated with social inclusion and opportunities to enhance access to relevant information that can nurture their daily lives. However, scholars claim that low levels of digital literacy among refugees, as well as socioeconomic, linguistic and cultural barriers can hinder their abilities to use ICTs for managing information efficiently
- Refugees tend to have high level of mobile phone use, but host societies and institutions lack adaptability to these tech-savvy users. Typically, services aimed at refugees do not profoundly engage with their literacies and needs or involve them in the design and implementation processes
- In the context of refugee health, mobile technologies can be used as an integrative part of face-to-face interventions. Considering the affordability and accessibility of mobile phones, scholars demonstrated that mental health apps and short messaging service (SMS) became complementary methods for monitoring mental health conditions among refugees