Migration and the evolving mediascape: new media, identity and the transnational politics of the Indian diaspora
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Internet-based new media—social media platforms in particular—have profoundly altered the boundaries and contours of civic and political life by offering new opportunities for participation and challenge, as well as new perils of communal competition, surveillance, counter-influence and disruption. Additionally, new media technologies have shown unprecedented capabilities for political communication to cross national boundaries. This project considers the complex factors that impact participation by members of a diaspora in the politics of the homeland—in this case Indian immigrants in the United States. A combined approach of historical inquiry and applied survey research attempts to disaggregate the influence of the digital media ecosystem (social networking platforms in particular), as well as core dynamics of personal identity and the dislocation associated with geographic migration. The tested hypotheses examine whether respondents are more or less likely to consider future political participation based on indexed independent variables related to identity, geographic migration and social media platform usage. Additionally, respondents’ sensitivity to exposure to certain types of news information is also considered through an experiment using hypothetical news stories that vary in content, geography and actor identity. These approaches reflect on the existing scholarship, but more importantly, builds new lines of questioning that span across previously disconnected streams of research, offering a more holistic appraisal that more accurately reflects the large, complex, varied mediascape in which migrants see, share and respond to many different forms of online information, communication and interactivity. Online recruitment of resident Indian and Non-Resident Indian (NRI) survey respondents provided two population samples that allows for comparative examination prior and subsequent to the event of migration. The survey questions themselves encompassed of a broad range of questions addressing socioeconomic status, prior civic activity, social media usage, perceptions about political institutions and expectations of future participation in the form of voting. The implications for this research may yield insights into the shape of possible future transnational phenomena, most notably the prospect of absentee voting in the near future. The specific questions and influences on diasporic participation are considered in this context, and recommendations for follow-up research are provided.