Integration and Digital Practices: An Ethnographic Study of Young Refugees in Berlin (Working title)
Applicant(s) Jessica Bishopp
Occupation/Organisation Filmmaker and Design Researcher
In January 2016 the “Ankommen” (Arrival) application was released by BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) to help refugees “integrate quickly” into society and since then it has had over 250,000 downloads. Germany had 425,035 asylum applications between January and November 2015, with 57,816 in November alone. It has since been recorded that in Germany there were approximately 112 digital projects (apps, websites, digital services) created to “help” refugees, with half of these produced in Berlin, engendering the “digital refugee scene”.
As part of my masters in Social Anthropology, I conducted fieldwork in Berlin and experienced a general awareness of the “Ankommen” app by all my interlocutors; NGOs, volunteers, startups and refugees alike, however this contrasted against an absence of use. My original intention was to study how people used the app and why, and instead the study became about the non-use, drawing upon Sally Wyatt’s (2003) call for the recognition of the importance of the “non-user”. I traced the German national and social imaginations of “integration” present in the “integration app” which have a fraught relationship with recent history and national memory. I explored the context which nurtured the creation of the Ankommen app; arguing the atmosphere of techno-optimism in Berlin, rooted in the prolific startups, has crept from the commercial and corporate realms into the political and humanitarian, positioning the refugee as user and consumer. In order for this to take place I argue there has been a mutual and simultaneous process of homogenisation and incorporation of the identity of the refugee.
I studied BA Design for Interaction and Moving Image, and then worked as a designer and filmmaker. I have recently graduated from MA Social Anthropology and conducted a personal research project which became my masters thesis, based on original fieldwork and also the 18 months I spent living in Berlin as a graphic designer and volunteering with refugees before I undertook my masters. I will present a concise version of my fieldwork and findings within the “digital refugee scene”.