Building “Ethnic Ghettos” or “Intercultural Bridges”? the Use of ICTs in Migrant Organizations in Spain

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 44
Oral Presentation
Catalina UZCANGA , University of Deusto, Donostia- San Sebastián, Spain
Xabier RIEZU , University of Deusto, Donostia- San Sebastián, Spain
Pedro OIARZABAL , University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
Concha MAIZTEGUI , University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
Esther ARETXABALA , University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
Maria Luisa SETIEN , Faculty of Social and Human Sciences. University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain
The use of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by migrant organizations is a relevant factor for the enhancement of social cohesion. Migrant associations develop in-group solidarity, and this often generates out-group mistrust. There is a general consensus regarding the value of ICTs in maintaining both strong and weak ties, but there is not any consensus on whether ICTs are useful in forming new ties and whether those are strong or weak. This study aims at explaining the impact of ICTs use in the migrant associations’ social capital. Are migrant associations using ICTs to expand bridging social capital or to reinforce homogeneous networks? In depth interviews to the representatives of 25 immigrant associations in Spain, from five different origins, namely Romania, Morocco, Equator, Colombia and Bolivia, have shown that the use of ICTs is increasingly essential for their organizations. Furthermore, ICTs are used to access to information on both the origin and the host country. However, the organizations’ communications, both online and offline are mainly addressing their local communities. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the associations that use more diverse ICT tools are those who are more oriented to social cohesion. The study shows that, indeed, bonding social capital is essential for migrant associations and that the use of ICTs helps maintaining strong ties, while fostering the creation of new weak ties and political participation of their communities in the host society. In sum, ICTs come up as an opportunity for migrant associations to improve their public image, collaborate with other public, private and non-profit organizations and thus to enhance social cohesion, in general. Therefore, an effort should be done from public and private initiatives to facilitate this digitalization. This paper is part of a larger research financed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy.