Structuring Refugees & Cyberculture

Ok, so I have developed the idea for my research project, now to assemble it! I have decided to divide the project into 4 parts: four focus points.

Part 1 will be on how refugees engage with cyberculture. This will include how they map & document their experiences. Example cases I will be researching: refugees paving the way for other refugees by sharing photos/GPS locations of their migration path on social media and Google Maps censoring access to viewing refugee housing centres. I will also look at how refugees interact with cyberculture to share their experiences within institutions/controlled environments (i.e. detention centres, camps and island resettlements). Examples: Free the children NAURU and footage released of a hunger strike from within Manus Island detention centre.

Image from Free the children NAURU Facebook page, uploaded 20th March 2016

Image from Free the children NAURU Facebook page, uploaded 20th March 2016

Part 2 will be a focus on those participating in cyberculture to help refugees. This can range from direct involvement with refugees to awareness campaigns. I will be focusing on the strengths and limitations of these involvements. Examples: volunteers providing free wifi and phone charging, ‘Techfugees’ hackathon, Airbnb for refugees, ‘Refugees Welcome‘, the Virtual Reality Documentary ‘Clouds Over Sidra‘, hashtag use on Twitter and community groups, such as SCARF.

Part 3 will be a focus on the monitoring/controlled movement of refugees. Examples: current and future use of “apps, biometrics and smart cards” to track/register refugees, drone surveillance of borders.


Biometric technology used to register refugees in the UNHCR ProGres database. “Until registered, they are not officially a refugee, thus not entitled to protection or eligible for aid” -Favell, 2015, Computer Weekly

Part 4 will be a focus on representations v realities of refugee experiences. Things to consider: conflicting statistics on refugee demographics, problematic definition of what constitutes a refugee and the ramifications that arise from this, language used (e.g. refugees labelled as migrants), the ‘protection paradox‘ and the phenomena of ‘othering’. I will draw on the cyberculture aspects from the previous 3 parts of this project and reflect on the role it plays in the construction of representations and exposure of realities.

In terms of presenting my research, I will be making a four-part Youtube series as videos can be very direct and engaging. The visualisation of refugee experiences is also important to connect audiences with realities over representations. I’m aiming to make the videos for each part between 3-5 minutes.

*This post has been altered from 5 focus points to 4, following consultation with Chris.


[author unknown]. 2015. “Google Maps” censorship. How to defeat refugee housing map deletion,, available at:

Berg C. 2011. Why cling on to an outdated refugee convention? ABC’s The Drum, available at:

Byrne R. 2015. The Protection Paradox: Why Hasn’t the Arrival of New Media Transformed Refugee Status Determination?, International Journal Of Refugee Law, 27, 4, pp. 625-648, Political Science Complete, EBSCOhost, available at:

Chang 0. 2015. Australia is hosting its first ‘Techfugees’ hackathon in response to the growing refugee crisis, Business Insider Australia,

Doherty B & McConnell F. 2015. Rare footage from inside Manus Island detention centre reveals desperation – video, The Guardian, available at:

Graham-Harrison E & Taylor D. 2016. EU asks tech firms to pitch refugee-tracking systems, The Guardian, available at:

Marin L, & Krajčíková K. 2016. Deploying Drones in Policing Southern European Borders: Constraints and Challenges for Data Protection and Human Rights, Drones & Unmanned Aerial Systems, available at:

McLaughlin D. 2015. Mass migration guided by mobiles and social media, The Irish Times (reported from Budapest), available at:

Strindberg A. 2015. Five reasons why the majority of refugees reaching Europe are men, Global Citizen, available at:

Zappone C. 2015. Migrant or Refugee Crisis: what’s in a hashtag?, Sydney Morning Herald, available at:

About intersectionalalien

Hi hello people of earth/space/cyberspace, intersectional alien here. I’m still trying to figure out my place on this earth. I like intersectional feminism, feminism in popular culture, LGBTQ+, refugee rights, veganism, mental health, nihilism, travelling, unlearning institutional conditioning, good tunes and consuming and creating stories.
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5 Responses to Structuring Refugees & Cyberculture

  1. Paul Tuohy says:

    I recommend you contact Travis Wall (@_traviswall), a UOW tutor, he recently attended the Techfugees event and should have some insight into the type of tech that is being developed, and what is being asked for from refugees. To elaborate on Part 3/4: I’d like to know who are the participants involved (or leading) in the development of tech designed for refugees – i.e. what body corporates and citizens – and how is it assisting citizens, like yourself to observe and help in their narrative. As a final point, you should consider how refugees are utilising tech after they are settled (or even throughout the process) to retain their cultures and customs, and connect to friends and relatives, to form diaspora nations online. Reach out to Sukhmani Khorana (@sukhmani_sees). She has a great knowledge on diaspora communities and its development through technology. I admire the pre-planning and clear focus you’ve decided on!

  2. Your plan on how you’re going to construct this research project is really well done. Part 5 is what interests me the most and so it’s great that you’re using all the information you’ll gather in the earlier in the previous parts of the research to draw conclusions on the topic of perceptions vs reality of refugees. The image and caption you included really messed me up a little. The fact that “Until registered, they are not officially a refugee, thus not entitled to protection or eligible for aid” makes me wonder whether sometimes the cyberculture aspect of the experience of a refugee can sometimes be detrimental. Because their reality might be that of a refugee, but until they’ve ‘officially’ entered the system as one, they aren’t according to records? That’s definitely an interesting aspect that you’ve opened me up to.

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