Smartphones in the lives of refugees

Abstract

Smartphones are currently playing an increasingly crucial role for people in different contexts. One group that recently became known for making use and benefiting from smartphones are refugees from the Middle East. In this region, the use of mobile Internet and social media had quickly gained ground in the beginning of the decade when the so-called Arab Spring and the resulting war in Syria began. Thus, it was only natural that refugees from these countries took their smartphones with them when they finally saw no option but to cross the Aegean to apply for asylum in Europe and Austria in 2015. 

By conducting semi-structured interviews, the project analyses the use and role of smartphones in different stages of refugees’ forced resettlement process: during the dangerous, chaotic and resource-poor flight into the unknown; and later upon arrival in Vienna, when immediate mortal danger is over, but a foreign country with an unfamiliar culture and language is challenging refugees in yet new ways while their families and friends are spread across continents.

Financing

City of Vienna

CMC Staff

Tobias Eberwein (Project Leader)

Katja Kaufmann (Project Management)

Mouhamad Alhassan

Fridolin Mallmann

Awards

2017 Best Student Paper Award of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) to Katja Kaufmann for her paper “Navigating a new life: Syrian refugees and their smartphones in Vienna”

Lectures

Lectures

  • 31/10/2018 , Lugano
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    On YouTube, Cooking and the Old Life: Digital Practices of Memory-Making in Forced Migration.
    ECREA Communication History pre-conference “Towards a Polyphony of Memory? Media, Communication and Memory in the Digital Age”
  • 29/09/2018 , Wien
    Katja Kaufmann,  Mouhamad Alhassan: 
    Mit Kriegsflüchtlingen über ihre Smartphone-Nutzung auf der Flucht sprechen: Methodische und ethische Herausforderungen [Talking with war refugees about their smartphone use on the run: methodical and ethical challenges]
    Invited Lecture
  • 02/11/2017 , Bilbao
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    When the refugee’s tool becomes the researcher’s tool: Getting deep into refugees’ smartphone practices with WhatsApp
    International Conference of the ECREA Diaspora, Migration and the Media section together with ICC section “Migration and communication flows: rethinking borders, conflict and identity through the digital”
  • 19/10/2017 , Tartu
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    Navigating a new life: Syrian refugees and their smartphones in Vienna
    International Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)
  • 14/09/2017 , Cologne
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    Mobility through and with media: The locative media practices of Syrian refugees using smartphones
    International workshop "Anthropologies of Media and Mobility: Theorizing movement and circulations across entangled fields”
  • 28/06/2017 , Klagenfurt
    Katja Kaufmann,  Tobias Eberwein: 
    Gesellschaftliche Teilhabe durch Smartphones? Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von Medienbildung und Empowerment [Social participation through smartphones? Thoughts on the relationship between media literacy and empowerment]
    Workshop "Der Mensch im digitalen Zeitalter", Alpen-Adria Universität
  • 28/04/2017 , Wien
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    Google Maps, WhatsApp & Facebook Groups: Das Smartphone auf der Reise syrischer Flüchtlinge nach Österreich [Google Maps, WhatsApp & Facebook Groups: The smartphone on the journey of Syrian refugees to Austria]
    Ringvorlesung "Mehr als Flucht" am Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien
  • 16/02/2017 , Munich
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    Mit Kriegsflüchtlingen über ihre Smartphone-Nutzung auf der Flucht sprechen: Eine forschungsethische (Selbst-)Reflexion Reflexion [Talking with war refugees about their smartphone use on the run: A (self-)reflection from a research ethics’ perspective]
    Jahrestagung des Netzwerks Medienethik und der DGPuK-Fachgruppe "Kommunikations- und Medienethik"
  • 06/10/2016 , Berlin
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    The empowered refugee: The smartphone as a tool of resistance on the journey to Europe
    17th Annual Meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)
  • 30/07/2016 , Leicester
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    "The life I had is in my pocket" - how Syrian refugees bridge past and future with the help of their smartphones
    Annual Conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR): Memory, Commemoration and Communication: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 12/07/2016 , Vienna
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    "The smartphone is the most valuable thing we have" - Insights from a qualitative study on how Syrian refugees use their smartphones on their journey to Europe
    Turkish Migration Conference 2016
  • 01/07/2016 , Vienna
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    Researching refugees and their smartphone use: Insights and challenges
    Tagung: Refugee Outreach & Research Network
  • 13/06/2016 , Klagenfurt
    Katja Kaufmann,  Mouhamad Alhassan: 
    Refugees and their smartphones - a research project from a communication studies perspective
    interdisciplinary workshop "(Forced) Migration & Media"
  • 01/06/2016 , Hannover
    Katja Kaufmann: 
    Die Rolle des Smartphones auf der und für die Flucht: Erste Ergebnisse einer qualitativen Interview-Studie mit syrischen Flüchtlingen [The role of the smartphone on the run and for fleeing: Results from a qualitative interview study with Syrian refugees]
    Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover, IJK

Books and Monographs

Books and Monographs

Articles and Book Chapters

Articles and Book Chapters

  • Kaufmann, K. (2016). Wie nutzen Flüchtlinge ihre Smartphones auf der Reise nach Europa? Ergebnisse einer qualitativen Interview-Studie mit syrischen Schutzsuchenden in Österreich [How do refugees use their smartphones on the way to Europe? Results of a qualitative study among Syrian asylum seekers in Austria]. Sws-Rundschau, 56, 319-342.

Research Papers

Research Papers

Popular Publications

Popular Publications

  • Kaufmann, K. (2017). Akku wichtiger als Essen – Smartphone als "Freund auf der Flucht" [Interview mit APA Austria Presse Agentur]. Retrieved from https://science.apa.at/site/natur_und_technik/detail?key=SCI_20170817_SCI39351351637647372
  • Kaufmann, K., & Alhassan, M. (2017). Das Smartphone als Fluchtbegleiter [Interview mit ÖAW-Presseabteilung]. Retrieved from https://www.oeaw.ac.at/oesterreichische-akademie-der-wissenschaften/die-oeaw/article/das-smartphone-als-fluchtbegleiter/
  • Kaufmann, K. (2017). Das Smartphone als Lebensretter [Interview mit Die Presse]. Diepresse.com. Retrieved from http://diepresse.com/home/science/5248615/Das-Smartphone-als-Lebensretter
  • Kaufmann, K. (2017). Umgang mit Sozialen Netzen in der Not [Interview mit DerStandard]. Der Standard Forschung Spezial. Retrieved from http://derstandard.at/2000050501986/Umgang-mit-Sozialen-Netzen-in-der-Not
  • Kaufmann, K. (2016). Ein Selfie als Lebensbeweis. Experteninterview. Retrieved from https://www.aau.at/blog/ein-selfie-als-lebensbeweis/ 
  • Kaufmann, K. (2016). Understanding why smartphones are so essential to refugees. Retrieved from http://www.ror-n.org/-blog/understanding-why-smartphones-are-so-essential-to-refugees
  • Kaufmann, K. (2016). Nicht ohne mein Handy. Interview. Retrieved from http://www.schweizamsonntag.ch/ressort/nachrichten/nicht_ohne_mein_handy/

Popular Talks

Popular Talks

In the Media


Katja Kaufmann in an Austria Press Agency interview on the use of smartphones by Syrian refugees on their journey to Europe and upon arrival (2017, 17 August; reprinted in Science.orf.at, Der Standard Online, Wiener Zeitung Online), available at: http://science.orf.at/stories/2860852/

Katja Kaufmann in an interview with the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse on the use of smartphones by Syrian refugees on their journey to Europe and upon arrival (2017, 7 July), available at: https://diepresse.com/home/science/5248615/Das-Smartphone-als-Lebensretter

Katja Kaufmann and Mouhamad Alhassan in an interview with the ÖAW Public Relations team on the CMC study “smartphones in the lives of refugees” (2017, 1 August), available at: https://www.oeaw.ac.at/oesterreichische-akademie-der-wissenschaften/die-oeaw/article/das-smartphone-als-fluchtbegleiter/

Katja Kaufmann in a public panel discussion on communication technologies and migration at the elevate festival 2017, Graz (2017, 5 March), available at: https://vimeo.com/210096390

Katja Kaufmann in an interview with the Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard on the role of social media in forced migration processes (2017, 14 January), available at: http://derstandard.at/2000050501986/Umgang-mit-Sozialen-Netzen-in-der-Not

Katja Kaufmann in an interview with ad astra – Magazine for Science and Culture at the Alpen-Adria-Universität on the relevance of smartphones for Syrian refugees on their flight to Europe (2016, 6 October), available at: https://www.aau.at/blog/ein-selfie-als-lebensbeweis/  

Katja Kaufmann in the research blog of ROR-n, the Vienna based refugee outreach and research network, on her recently launched project to study the role of smartphones for refugees coming to Europe (2016, 26 September), available at: http://www.ror-n.org/-blog/understanding-why-smartphones-are-so-essential-to-refugees 

Katja Kaufmann in the Swiss Sunday paper Schweiz am Sonntag on the role of smartphones in forced migration processes (2016, 27 August), available at: https://www.schweizamwochenende.ch/nachrichten/nicht-ohne-mein-handy-131067432

Katja Kaufmann in the research blog Ein Fall für die Wissenschaft of the Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard on the use of smartphones by Syrian refugees on their journey to Austria (2016, 28 June), available at: http://derstandard.at/2000039965056/Wenn-Menschen-dank-Smartphones-am-Leben-bleiben