E-Migration: A New Configuration of Technological, Geographical and Social Spaces

E-Migration: A New Configuration of Technological, Geographical and Social Spaces

Nihil Olivera (Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Universitat Oberta de of Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/jep.2013010102
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Abstract

Communication and social practices of migrants are changing the dynamics of integration policies. Terms like globalization or transnationalization denote (apparently) an increased flow of information, goods, and capital across nation-state borders. However, borders are open for transactions, not for people. Located in the research thematic area of the Information Society, this article presents some technological, geographical, and social (TGS) characteristics that create a space the author calls e-migration, where the intervention of technology in society produces changes never seen before. This article is a theoretical reflection that discussed a case study of integration and immigration policies of French e-migrants (from the European Union, EU) and Ecuadorians (non-EU) in Catalonia, Spain. The article concludes with a discussion of some implications for future empirical research on e-migration.
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Introduction

The 21st century finds parts of the world connected in seconds, managing and producing exchanges of information, material, and financial resources at unimaginable speed. Terms like globalization or transnationalization denote an increase (apparently) in the flow of information, goods and capital across borders of nation-states. In a broad and general sense, transnationalism refers to “the cultural, economic, and political linking of people and institutions (that) de-emphasizes the role of geography in the formation of identity and collectivity, and creates possibilities for new membership across boundaries” (Levitt, 2001, p.202; for other definitions see also Khagram and Levitt, 2004; Levitt et al., 2003; Vertovec, 2003). However, these borders would be open for transactions and just for some people only.

Some researchers understand that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) would be changing the idea of borders in the social sciences, with new spaces and geographical configurations that challenge the fundamental assumptions of methodological nationalism. As noted by Wimmer and Glick Schiller, the so-called methodological nationalism is “the natural social and political form of nation/state/society of the modern world” (2002, p.302). According to this assumption, (national) companies have limits that naturally coincide with the boundaries defined and controlled by nation-states, epistemologically speaking. This correlation is not surprising, since the emergence of modern sociology coincided with the founding of the nation-states, national societies, and the international political system. The authors mentioned also argue that this kind of national approach restricted the study of migration and limited it to the confinement of the paradigm nation-state/immigration. As others argue, the increased mobility that goes through the current lifestyle of “being together in the distance,” pushes the limits of territoriality as a category for thinking about multiple identities, transnational social practices, and cosmopolitan belonging (Beck, 2003, 2006; Beck & Grande, 2010; Beck & Sznaider, 2006; Benhabib, 2004; Chang, 2010; Georgiou, 2010; Maharaj, 2010).

The debate therefore commences when thinking about transnationalism from the category of methodological nationalism, since it is based on the idea of fixity, sedentarism, and the (national) territorial boundaries of social structures. Beck (2004, 2006) proposes a new epistemological approach and methodology for the social sciences: cosmopolitan, politically ambivalent, thoughtful. He opposes the national vision, and his proposed methodological cosmopolitanism approach replaces the disjunctive “or...or” by the principle “both/and”. According to Beck (2006), this logic of additive inclusion, of interdependence of social actors through national boundaries, makes plural belongings possible, inclusive of dynamic realities that coexist but would seem contradictory.

Studying Romanian migration in Toronto and working with Beck’s concept of methodological cosmopolitanism, Nedelcu (2010) notes that the “online migrant” embodies a dialogic individual that goes across and frequents space-matrixes of different and heterogeneous socialization. Other researchers such as John Urry are more radical, proposing a world in which “social as society” is being replaced by “social as mobility” (2001, p.2). This “post-society” condition requires the development of a science that is “organized around networks, mobility, and horizontal fluidities” (2001, pp.3-18). However, authors like Adrian Favell (2001) and Gosta Esping-Andersen (2000) often warn that these new methodological proposals addressing social phenomena are not clear, neither can be demonstrated empirically and systematically and compared.

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