These days, modern communication services available in the market such as IM or Skype help to diminish communication needs imposed by distance. This is the case of migrants who use them to stay in touch with their families and friends and also to maintain strong connections with their home communities. There have been several studies that have intended to study the motivations of keeping those links. Many of those suggest that these links are kept because of homesickness, childhood memories, symbolic attachment or even social capital. However, there are others who maintain these connections not only because of nostalgia but because of the hope of an eventual return to the homelandThese connections often lead to scenarios where migrants remain connected to their places of origin without an interference whatsoever with the cultural assimilation of the host country. These scenarios are referred to in the literature as transnational communities. These types of communities are not bounded by national borders but they are integrated, to a varying degrees, with the country that receive them, at the same time that remain connected to the countries that leave behindDespite recent technological innovations, in-person visits to the homeland and telephone calls with family and close friends are still the main way to maintain connections with the places of origin. In many cases, the Internet has become also one of the main ways to be in contact with the home community. These contacts, however, at least online seem to be happening at different levels.First, many migrants use the Internet to connect with other migrants of the same ethnicity or nationality which can help them to obtain a broader perspective on an issue of collective interest such as politics or even less explicit subjects such as the construction of their identity.Because of their discursive nature, many of these websites influence the way migrants’ identities are reconstructed whilst abroad. At the same time, notions of home can be renegotiated since home has been considered an expression of one’s identity. This is the case of many Diasporic websites in Mexico where, until now, we have not found a single website trying to include the entire Mexican Diaspora abroad. On the contrary, the majority of these websites are used at the village level. We refer to these websites to as Hometown Websites.At least online, Mexicans in the US seem to maintain the identities at a local level rather than national level. Hometown websites are then a supplementary way of maintaining strong connections to the homeland and as a way to reconnect with old friends and daily life in the home community.
To better investigate the phenomenon under study, we analysed a website belonging to the community of San Luis de la Paz, which was chosen due to the activity and willingness of the webmasters to collaborate. The municipality of San Luis de la Paz is located in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. In 2005 had a population of over a hundred thousand inhabitants and, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Geography in Mexico, the municipality has a high degree of outmigration.
The website of San Luis de la Paz was initiated in 2000 by three brothers who volunteered to do the technical work as well to support financially the website with their oen moneyAccording to their creators, the website was created to promote the municipality and place the town close to those who were born there but currently away from the community
As you can see, the period analysed is from April 2007 until March 2008.The relatively sustained traffic from June till November may be following several major events in the community such as the regional fun fair in August, the Independence Day in September and the Day of the Dead in November. There is a clear valley in December can be due to the Christmas break that is when most migrants go back home for at least a couple of weeks. This break would explain the lack of interest in the website as they would be actually thereTo facilitate the analysis, we grouped visits weekly and classified weeks depending on their traffic. We considered high traffic weeks those with more than 10,000 visitors.
As seen, migrants use these sites to reconnect, be part of the community life and participate in establishing direct, peer-to-peer communication. However, we found revealing that about half of the entries of the guestbook correspond to simple greetings which can be understood as a manifestation of continuous presence We also found revealing the types of photos people share with others. Most photos present loved ones, particularly newborns, new friends, and new partners. However, most of them are actually self-portraits. We believe that this might reflect their desire to show an updated look. This clearly contrasts with an intuition we had as we expected more photos of the places they moved to. Instead, people share what they have and what they do for fun.
Usersaremigrants, non-migrants and return migrants originally from San Luis de la Paz which basically provided an appropriate setting for in-group discourse only thus enabling migrants to make very particular interpretations of the images and information conveyed on the website The site counts with information that could be potentially read by visitors who reached the site by accident such as historical information, we believe that this information is indeed used by members of the community to reinforce their local identity as this has been described previously as a defensive reaction to fast-paced change and globalizationMoreover, this framework allows us to see the situation of San Luis de la Paz as an exposed community where the local identity seems to be endangered by the intrusion of foreign values which, paradoxically, are also conveyed through the website by means of images of the New Life and Self-portraits. Some migrants also commented that youngsters in San Luis de la Paz are starting to imitate their counterparts in the USA in the way they dress since they think it is fashionable. In this way, the website of San Luis de la Paz works as a bidirectional exchange of culture and practices which seem to delineate some aspects of the social life of migrants and non-migrants.
Hometown Websites: Maintaining Cross-border Connections Luis A. Castro, Victor M. Gonzalez The University of Manchester C&T 2009: State College, PA, June, 26th 2009 1
Community Connections Modern communication services allow migrants to maintain strong connections with their home communities Linkages are kept for several different reasons such as homesickness, memories, symbolic attachment, etc. Transnational communities are integrated into the country that receive them at the same time that remain connected to their country of origin (Levitt, 2001) In-person visits and phone calls are still the main way of keeping linkages Global: Diasporic websites connect expatriates with others of the same ethnicity or nationality (e.g., USAIndian.Net) – Imagined? Local: Hometown websites work as a reunion point whereby localised topics are circulated and discussed across the borders – Real? 4
Research questions What is the nature of communication exchanges on hometown websites? How do communication exchanges fluctuate over time on hometown websites? What kind of content is more attractive for users on hometown websites? 5
Methodology Content analysis (Apr07-Mar08) Published News notes Shared Photos Guestbook entries Initial sample of items (10-15%) helped to define a coding scheme Items were independently coded by each author Agreement pct: 73.2% photos, 82.6% entries & 83.1% News notes 6
San Luis de la Paz (SL) Municipality in the central state of Guanajuato, Mexico Population: 101,370 inhabitants in 2005 High degree of outmigration (INEGI) 7
The website of SL It has been running since 2000 It began as a website run by volunteers to ‘promote the municipality and place the town closer to those born there but currently living away from the community’ 8
Weekly visitor traffic (Apr07-Mar08) High Traffic Low Traffic 10
Content creation (Apr07-Mar08) Mother’s Day Christmas Pageant Contest Local Fair 11
Services analyzed Guestbook – 1,019 entries Text-based channel adopted as a public mailbox 46% of entries are Greetings; 18% are personal messages Photos – 1,015 photos 71% of the photos were posted by migrants; 12% by non-migrants; the rest could not be identified 30% New Life; 8% Local Life in San Luis News – 295 notes One-way, outbound communication by webmasters Almost half of the entries are about Socio-civic events 12
Temporal Patterns The analysis was focused on the date of creation and number of views of each item. We expected: High traffic weeks & content creation correlated Significant positive correlation between the number of photos and the site traffic (rho=0.305, N=53, p=0.026, two-tailed) Major offline events would increase content creation Significant positive correlation between the number of Photos uploaded and the number of News published (rho=0.390, N=53, p=0.004, two-tailed) 14
Weekly average of items created per High and Low traffic weeks 15 * F(1 51)=5.077, p=0.029
Weekly average item views per High and Low traffic weeks 16
Content creation & Interest News are read the same regarding the time of the year when they are published No significant differences in the average number of times a note is read between News published during high and low traffic weeks (F(1,293)=1.293, p=0.256) Photos are viewed more if they are published during low traffic weeks There is a significant difference in the number of times a photo is viewed between photos published during high (avg. 30.98 views) and low traffic weeks (avg. 57.2 views) (F(1,1013)=85.638, p<0.0005) 17
Content creation & Interest (2) Informative Notes (e.g., historical information) are read as twice as much if they are published during low traffic weeks There is a significant difference in the average number of times an Informative note is read between High and Low traffic weeks (t=2.918, df=41.002, p=0.006, two-tailed) All types of photos are viewed more if they are published during low traffic weeks There is a significant difference in the average number of times a photo is viewed between High and Low traffic weeks for all categories: Local Life: 33% more (t=3.096, df=52.353, p=0.003, two-tailed) New Life: 77% more (t=4.482, df=295.116, p<0.005, two-tailed) Other: 50% more (t=2.052, df=21.140, p=0.053, two-tailed) Relationships: 96% (t=10.523, df=575.877, p<0.005, two-tailed) 18
About half of the entries of the guestbook correspond to simple greetings which can be understood as a manifestation of continuous presence (Licoppe, 2004) and expression of interest in the community
A significant number of photos show self-portraits which might be a desire to show an updated look
It is still unclear how being connected to the community can be translated into more participation in community life (For instance, see (Carroll et al., 2005))
Analysis shows that there is no significant difference in the number of items created during High Traffic periods, excluding photos. In other words, there is a continuous stream of content which remains steady over the year.
Discussion San Luis de la Paz can be seen as an exposed community where the local identity seems to be endangered by the intrusion of foreign values which, paradoxically, are also conveyed through the website by means of images of the New Life and Self-portraits Migrants use the website as one of the strategies to maintain their local identities (e.g., historical information, in-group discourse) The website of San Luis de la Paz works as a bidirectional exchange of culture and practices which seem to delineate some aspects of the social life of migrants and non-migrants 20
Conclusions Encouraging results toward understanding the nature of interpersonal and community exchanges for transnational communities There are several implications for design that need to be taken into account to better support the conveyance of information about community life – moving away from the desktop? Temporal patterns of communication exist and very often they are shaped by socio-civic and religious events 21
Conclusions Services supplement each other to sustain a continuous stream of contact with the community. It is still unclear how they actually supplement each other or whether some of the posts or photos are in fact responses to particular events occurring in the town Exchanging messages is sometimes more important than its content - greetings To study the implications of being connected to the homeland in terms of local identity, engagement and participation 22
Hometown Websites: Maintaining Cross-border Connections Luis A. Castro, Victor M. Gonzalez The University of Manchester C&T 2009: State College, PA, June, 26th 2009 I am currently looking for a Post-doc Position! 23
References Levitt, P. (2001). The Transnational Villagers. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. Licoppe, C. (2004). Connected presence: the emergence of a new repertoire for managing social relationships in a changing communication technoscape. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 22, 1, 135-156. Carroll, J.M., M.B. Rosson, A. Kavanaugh, D.R. Dunlap, W. Schafer, J. Snook, and P. Isenhour. 2005. Social and Civic Participation in a Community Network, in Domesticating Information Technologies, R. Kraut, M. Brynin, and S. Kiesler, Eds. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 168-181. 24