Digital geographies of transnational spaces: a mixed-method study of Mexico-US migration
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The central objective of this thesis is to explore how sophisticated information and communication technologies (ICTs) impact Mexico-US migration. In particular, it attends to those ICTs that enable Mexican immigrants in the United States to stay “in touch” with their loved ones in Mexico. Rather than pursue the impacts of these technologies through a singular methodology or theoretical framework, this study employs an array of approaches in order to examine the geography transnational communication across multiple scales. At the level of the individual, I examine how Mexican immigrants living in Austin, TX, incorporate communication technologies into their daily lives. Informed by a series of semi-structured and in-depth interviews, I argue that cellular phone calls, text messaging, and social media platforms enable a passive, routinized transnationalism that allows migrants to maintain a degree of presence both “here” and “there.” I subsequently scale up my analysis in order to trace the emergence of digital social media—Facebook, in particular—as a communication tool for dispersed Mexican immigrant communities, and I interrogate the ways in which digital social media engender transnational social networks. Using place as a guiding conceptual theme, I demonstrate how senses of and attachments to place form the basis of communal social interactions online, and I identify the many different places, both in the US and Mexico, that are involved in particular transnational social networks and migration flows. This study concludes by drawing on recent critical GIS scholarship and volunteered geographic information (VGI) in order to visualize the digital, place-to-place connections between Mexican migrants living in United States and their friends and family members living in Mexico and elsewhere.