ICT-based co-presence in transnational families

Loretta Baldassar, Mihaela Nedelcu, Laura Merla & Raelene Wilding

Résumé It is now well documented that the experience of migration has undergone a radical transformation in recent decades, notably with the emergence of transnational modes of sociality in both families and communities. The processes of migration have always challenged the taken-for-granted assumption that physical proximity is necessary for
the maintenance of significant social ties. Now, more than ever before, the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and new media environments has begun to challenge the premise that strong relationships require face-to-face interactions. Even more than affordable travel, it is the expansion and enhancement of
technologies of communication such as the internet, smartphones and social media that have contributed to the recent, startling emergence of a new social environment of ubiquitous connectivity.
This new social reality transforms sociality in (post)modern societies in complex ways. To reflect these transformations, a new lexicon has begun to develop that charts the social impacts of new applications of such technologies. The important work of Castells (1996) on the ‘network society’ points to the ways in which communication
technologies support more frequent and more diverse connections across time and space. More recently, further nuance has been developed in understanding the impact of ICTs on the experience and practice of relationships. Notions like ‘connected
presence’ (Licoppe 2004) highlight the ways in which the capacity to connect with others has resulted in an ongoing practice of connecting to others, in various manners.
The concept of ‘mobile lives’ (Elliott and Urry 2010) refers to the ways in which people manage their everyday mobility without necessarily sacrificing their sense of connecting to significant others. The idea of ‘bounded sociality’ (Ling 2008) emphasizes the fact that not only geographic proximity, but also close relationships are shaping the
ways in which technologies are used to sustain relationships. Such concepts help to articulate how social life is no longer conducted wholly in place, within neat physical and territorial boundaries, but rather must now be conceived of as incorporating distant ties and connections.
The authors of this special issue explore how communication technologies are transforming ways of ‘being together’ and forms of ‘co-presence’ in families and communities separated by distance and over time. The concept of ‘ICT-based co-presence’ is used to capture and explore the diverse ways in which people maintain
a sense of ‘being there’ for each other across distance. Emerging scholarship reveals that the intensive use of internet-based communication, mobile phones and social media can contribute to strengthening ties and intensifying the circulation of various
(cultural, emotional, economic and social) resources within transnational families (Madianou and Miller 2012). The uses of these technologies may also facilitate intergenerational solidarities at a distance, expanding transnational emotional and
other forms of support.
This is not to suggest that such transnational forms of caregiving are evenly distributed and shared. Rather, the exchange of support in transnational families is characterized by the asymmetrical reciprocal exchanges that define all intimate social
relationships. Nor is it to suggest that all transnational relationships take the same form or have the same impact. One of the questions that is raised by the transnational experience produced by new technologies is just how effective these transnational
forms of exchanges are in approximating or ‘standing in for’ the physical co-presence and ‘being there’ that has long been taken for granted as the bedrock of family and other significant relationships.
Throughout this issue, detailed ethnographic case studies illustrate the social uses of new technologies in migrant, as well as transnational family and community contexts, using these richly described examples to develop theories to better understand the transformation of transnational family life by ICTs. Key issues include: how do trans-
national families use a range of ICTs to re-create ‘being together’, ‘being there’ and the experience of ‘co-presence’ in everyday life? How might we define ‘co-presence’ in transnational settings, and what are its heuristic contributions and constraints? What norms and expectations (in terms of empowerment, emotional resilience, control, emotional pressure, and so forth) are created by the new possibilities for co-presence?
What are the benefits and limits of ICT-based co-presence within transnational families?
Citation Baldassar, L., Nedelcu, M., Merla, L., & Wilding, R. (2016). ICT-based co-presence in transnational families. Global Networks, 16(2), 133-144.
Type Article de périodique (Anglais)
Date de publication 9-2-2016
Nom du périodique Global Networks
Volume 16
Numéro 2
Pages 133-144
URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/glob.12108/abs...