Moroccans Diasporas By Dana Diminescu & Matthieu Renault
Analyzing the structuring of the Moroccan e-diasporas, the topology of Moroccan migrant websites reveals some key patterns of Web occupation and modes of organization of the diaspora at the border between “online” and “offline”. While strongly interconnected, the institutional Moroccan websites dedicated to migrants have little impact on the rest of the e-diaspora, which proves the difficulty of “catalyzing” the diaspora. There is also reciprocal ignorance between migrant associations, which are poorly linked between each other and more generally very isolated within the Moroccan e-diaspora. Conversely, the analysis shows the high internal density of the Moroccan migrant blogosphere. The most striking feature is the position occupied by two community websites, yabiladi.com and bladi.net, which are strongly linked to and play a crucial bridge role between the individual-blogs cluster and the institutional cluster. Their forums receive millions of messages, which deal not so much with political and administrative questions as with the daily life of Moroccan migrants. Finally, language is an essential factor of connection and grouping: although the majority of websites are in French, a polarization occurs around English-language websites of different types, providing a certain unity of the e-diaspora. These are only preliminary explorations and thus should be considered as the source of a research hypothesis (rather than its conclusion), which demands to be confirmed (or not) by specialists.
Dana Diminescu, a practicing sociologist, is an associate professor at TelecomParisTech. Her empirical work has enabled her to approach a variety of fields: e.g. uses of mobile telephone and voice IT, the Internet (tailing, archiving, mapping of the Web), and identifying digitalization technologies and m-transactions by migrants. Since 2003 she has been the scientific director of the research program ICT Migrations at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris. This program, which she launched ten years ago, has made major contributions to the theorization and analysis of the “connected migrant”.
Matthieu Renault holds a PhD in political philosophy from the University Paris VII and the University of Bologna, and a master’s in computer engineering from the University of Technology of Compiègne. He is a research engineer at Telecom ParisTech and a research associate at the Centre de Sociologie des Pratiques et des Représentations Politiques (University Paris VII). Since 2007, he has been a research assistant in the ICT-Migrations research program (Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and Telecom ParisTech), where, among other things, he investigates the occupation of digital territories by migrant communities, ethnicity and gender on the Web, Webactivism by undocumented migrants. He specializes in digital humanities, and the design of digital methods for human and social sciences.
e–DIASPORA: A migrant community as it organises itself and acts via various digital media, particularly on the web, and whose practices are those of a community whose interactions are ‘enhanced’ by digital exchange. An e–diaspora is a dispersed collectivity1. It is both ‘online’ and ‘offline’, so what interests us is both the digital ‘translations’ of ‘physical’ actors/phenomena (the online activities of associations for example) and the specifically (‘natively’) digital actors/phenomena (e. g., a forum and its internal interactions), what are sometimes called pure players. The question of ‘rub–offs’—reciprocal influence between these two sorts of web entity—is of capital importance in analysis of an e–diaspora. It's thus clear that research carried out in the context of the e–Diasporas Project presupposes a knowledge of the diaspora in question and, based on exploration of the web, calls on new research in the field. It also implies a knowledge of the web and an appreciation of the singularity of the exchanges that take place there.
DIASPORA WEB: An ensemble of the ‘migrant sites’ and ‘neighbouring sites’ (cf. infra) of a given diaspora, whether such sites be ‘living’ or ‘dead’ (cf. infra, ‘dead site’). In a sense, the web ecosystem of a diaspora.
e–DIASPORA CORPUS: The constitution of a corpus of websites is the method used to ‘capture’ an e–diaspora. A question of breakdown and selection that allows extraction of a diaspora web, it is also a task of definition in that a diaspora web presents itself to a researcher only as a product of this ‘excision’ performed upon the web. Similarly, it is only because of such exploration/selection, this filtering/circumscription of a corpus, that what a migrant site actually is takes on meaning.
MIGRANT SITE: A website created or managed by migrants and/or that deals with them (at any rate, a site for which migration is a defining theme). This could be a personal site or blog, the site of an association, a portal/forum, an institutional site, or anything similar. Usage is not the criterion: a site often consulted by migrants (a media site, for example) is not necessarily a migrant site. What distinguishes ‘activity’ is first and foremost the production of content and practice of citation (hyperlinks). On the other hand, a migrant site need not necessarily be situated in a foreign country and may just as easily be in the country of origin. Migrant sites testify to a given e–diaspora's occupation of the web.
NEIGHBOURING SITE: A non–migrant site (or one belonging to an e–diaspora other than the one being studied) which distinguishes itself by its strong connection with the (migrant) sites of a given e–diaspora (governmental or media sites of the country of origin, for example). However, not every site strongly linked to an e–diaspora is necessarily a neighbouring site. To be one it needs to be ‘specific’ to the diaspora in question which is why sites ‘on the fringes of’ the majority of web communities, particularly those in the upper layers of the web, Google, Youtube, Facebook and so on (cf. the diagram below), are not counted as ‘neighbours’. In the e–Diasporas Project, a list of neighbouring sites may be drawn up alongside that of migrant ones. These neighbouring sites discovered during the prospecting phase are not crawled during subsequent prospection but only during the phase of validation so as to gather together all links with the migrant site.
1 That is to say “a heterogeneous entity whose existence rest on an elaboration of a common direction, a direction not defined once and for all but which is constantly renegotiated throughout the evolution of the collective” (Turner). Furthermore, we prefer the term e–diaspora to that of ‘digital diaspora’ since the latter runs the risk of becoming a source of confusion given the increasingly frequent use of the notions of ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’ in a ‘generational’ sense (distinguishing those born before from those born during/after the digital era). The object of the e–Diasporas Atlas is not the ‘digital migrant’ but the migrant online.
2) Methodology and Tools
NAVICRAWLER: Navicrawler is an extension of the Firefox Web browser, this is a semi–automatic search tool which analyses the structure and content of pages and hyperlinks in order to assist the user during a browsing session. It helps the researcher in creating a corpus of websites related to his/her topic of study. This tool was developed chiefly by Mathieu Jacomy in the framework of the ICT-Migrations research program.
Download and documentation: http://webatlas.fr/wp/navicrawler/
GEPHI: Gephi is an interactive visualisation and exploration tool for all types of networks, complex systems, and dynamic and hierarchical graphs. In the e-Diasporas Atlas, it has been used to visualise and interpret the structuring and distribution of actors in migrant-community networks on the Web. The Gephi project was initiated by Mathieu Jacomy, in the context of the ICT-Migrations research program, and was then developed by Mathieu Bastian and Sébastien Heymann.
Download and documentation: http://gephi.org/
THE AUTOMATIC CRAWL (following the creation of a first Navicrawler corpus): A crawler is a ‘robot’ (computer program) which automatically browses the web based on a given list of URLs and follows all hyperlinks on the pages visited. A depth of exploration (number of successive ‘external’ hyperlinks—between one site and another—to be visited) is fixed as the crawl parameter and the results are stocked in the form of a graph whose nodes are pages or websites (sites in the case of e–Diasporas), and arcs the hyperlinks connecting them (note that, where e–Diasporas is concerned, site content is not indexed). As an example, a crawl to distance 1(visits to initial sites plus those linked to them) on a corpus of around fifty sites will come up with thousands and even hundreds of thousands of results. Most of these are anything but pertinent to a given corpus (we estimate that 1—10% actually are), so the results then need to be filtered. Two pointers are used by e–Diasporas: the number of initial sites referring to a given site discovered, and the number of initial sites to which it, itself, refers.
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