Mobility in the Digital Age: ICTs and the Transformation of International Migration

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Shaohua ZHAN, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Rajiv George ARICAT, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
The widespread application of digital media or ICTs, including social media and messaging apps, among migrants has commanded much academic attention. Scholars are divided on the role of digital media in shaping migration processes and post-migration outcomes. Some scholars regard it as a revolutionary force and argue that the spread of digital media has fundamentally transformed migration and migrants, creating new patterns of mobility, new identities and transnational spaces. Conversely, others stress the limited role of digital media and see it only as a new tool of information access and communication. This paper will review the debates on the role of digital media in migration by examining three transformative changes resulting from the use of digital media: the lowering of migration and communication costs, the extension and retention of social networks, and new ways of doing businesses. We will discuss how these three changes have a bearing on the key issues in migration studies including digital divide, the empowerment of migrant workers, social integration, and transnationalism. We argue that the use of digital media has a strong effect in promoting transnationalism, but it has limited effect on bridging the digital divide, and has mixed effects (both positive and negative) on migrant labor empowerment and social integration. Our research is based on a comparative study of Chinese and Indian immigrants in Singapore.