Monitoring social media for local governance of migrant integration

Rianne Dekker, Erasmus University Rotterdam

UniteEurope project & tool
Migrant integration policies deal with the position of immigrants and ethnic minorities in society. This policy field entails many issues that have gained and lost attention over time such as socio-economic deprivation, racism and discrimination, educational achievements and socio-cultural conflicts. This policy field of migrant integration is not fixed and regarding all migrant integration issues, multiple issue frames exist. This makes migrant integration a ‘wicked policy problem’. Perceptions of citizens of integration issues are thus an important source of information on integration issues for local policy makers.
The UniteEurope tool allows analysis of social media content on integration issues as they are actually experienced by citizens and ethnic minorities. Thereby, the UniteEurope tool is meant to enable local decision makers to identify policy issues and issue frames and support policy formulation. An extensive in-depth analysis of integration issues and measures, mainly gathered by qualitative methods of social research, serves as the basis for software development. In close cooperation between social scientists and IT-specialists, an grid model with multi-layer logic patterns will be used for consistent identification and categorization of integration issues in integration areas (socio-economic, socio-cultural, legal-political and spatial) in cities. Coherent layers with multilingual semantic tags, significant sources and parameters will make up the logical core of the tool.
Social media are a valuable new source of information policymakers. For many years, traditional media and political representation have been central to agenda setting research but the agenda setting dynamics of this new media landscape are yet unknown. For social scientists the UniteEurope tool provides opportunities to study the media logic of social media vis-à-vis traditional media. It also provides data on the practices and consideration of how policy makers are using these new media sources as input for policy formulation.
Paper: A Local Dimension of Integration Policies? A Comparative Study of Berlin, Malmö and Rotterdam
Studies indicate that integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities is increasingly guided by local governments. They do not just implement national policies, but that increasingly formulate policies as well. A paper entitled ‘A Local Dimension of Integration Policies? A Comparative Study of Berlin, Malmö and Rotterdam’ resulting from the preparatory research of the UniteEurope tool deals with the question whether a distinct local dimension of integration policies has emerged and how it relates to national integration policies.
Existing literature proposes three expectations: the ‘national models thesis’ says that national and local policies converge in the context of a concrete national policy philosophy, the ‘local pragmatism thesis’ claims that local policies are more pragmatic and accommodative to cultural pluralism and the ‘localist thesis’ states that local policies will differ because of very specific local problem, policy and political settings.
We qualitatively assessed these three theses on local integration policies by a comparative case study of integration policies in Berlin, Malmö and Rotterdam. We did not encounter the distinctive local approach of migrant integration that is assumed by the ‘local pragmatism thesis’. We found that in contrast to what is often assumed, local policies resemble their national policy frameworks fairly well in terms of policy approaches and domains. Our multi-level perspective shows that this is however not the result of top-down hierarchical governance. Local policy legacies and local politics matter and national policies are also influenced by local approaches of integration. There is rather a multilevel dynamic of two-way interaction at play.

About the speaker
Rianne Dekker is a PhD student at the department of Public Administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She graduated in sociology and specialized in urban studies. Her master’s thesis was entitled ‘The Virtual Reality of the Public Sphere’ and focused on the potential of social media for creating an online public sphere. After graduation she worked as a junior researcher and tutor at the department of sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She was involved in the international THEMIS project with the aim of explaining the dynamics of migration processes. Her interests focused on the role of online media in migrant networks. A qualitative article on this subject ‘How social media Transform Migrant Networks and Facilitate Migration’ (co-authored by Godfried Engbersen) is forthcoming in ‘Global networks’. She is currently writing a quantitative evaluation of the hypotheses posed in this paper, also based on data from the THEMIS project. As a PhD student, Rianne is part of the FP7 project ‘UniteEurope’ that deals with researching and developing a social media analysis tool for local governments to monitor online discussions about immigrants and ethnic minorities in their city. Her dissertation will focus on the question how local governments are dealing with this new media landscape of information in the process of policy formulation. A first scientific paper resulting from this project entitled ‘A Local Dimension of Integration Policies? A Comparative Study of Berlin, Malmö and Rotterdam’ (co-authored with Bernhard Krieger, Henrik Emilsson and Peter Scholten) is currently under review at IMR.

Venue: Conference Room

Date: 16 October 2013

Time: 12:30 - 13:30  CET