The online migrants: toward a cosmopolitan turn in migration studies?
Institute of Sociology / Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies Neuchâtel University Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Recent migrations occur in a world deeply transformed by both the globalization processes and the digital revolution. The broad accessibility of the mobile information and communication technologies (MICTs) generates various flows, characterized by the simultaneity and the intensity of the transnational exchanges. Internet facilitates the co-presence of mobile actors in multiple locations and allows the emergence of new transnational habitus. Thus, the digital revolution accelerates the transformation of the society from inside and contributes to a kind of "cosmopolitanization of nation-state societies" (U. Beck). This way, it enables new cosmopolitan and transnational forms of identification, belonging and participation which challenge migration patterns and theories.
Grounded on the results of a sociological study conducted between 2003 and 2007 exploring the use of Internet by highly skilled Romanian migrants, this paper addresses the question of these challenges at different levels.
First, ontologically, it shows that in a migratory context Internet becomes a tool for social innovation, shaping differently notions as borders, space, time or mobility. It also underlines the ambivalence of the computer-mediated transnational practices. On the one hand, the MICTS allow the migrants to multiply their belongings, to capture cosmopolitan values, to develop deterritorialized identities and biographies and to act at a distance in a real time. On the other hand, they also enable them to defend particularistic values and to claim a particular belonging while living the world.
Second, methodologically, this paper shows that studying migratory phenomena in a digital era and more specifically the deterritorialized practices of online migrants, requests a "transnational sensitivity" of the social scientist's toolkit. Thus, the study of the computer-mediated practices of the Romanian migrants resulted in a multi-sited approach which combined various qualitative methods (netnography, webographic analysis, semi-structured interviews, and more classical participant observation).
Last, but not least, this paper aims also to improve the epistemological debate criticizing the limits of the methodological nationalism. It proposes to revisit the national-transnational nexus by adopting the "cosmopolitan vision" (U. Beck) of the "both here and there" condition within a local-cosmopolitan continuum.