Researchers and governments used to have only a small amount of data on the subject of migration. Essentially, they mostly had to rely on spreadsheets that demonstrated how many people had left the country, and how many had entered. But according to Fran Meissner from Leiden University, recently, the amount of data about migration, migrants and migration flows has increased drastically. For example; different types of data are gathered through the mobile apps migrants are using to help them navigate and communicate during their journey, or through the GPS function on their phones. On top of that, organisations that are trying to assist these migrants or often also gathering information.
According to Meissner, all these activities result in a growing pile of information with regard to migration. And this process of 'datafication' might have both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, in the future, data might help governments and organisations to control and facilitate migration in a manner that is beneficial for every stakeholder. But on the other hand, migrants — especially if they are considered to be 'refugees' — are at risk of being judged on the basis of large amounts of anonymized group data, rather than on their personal circumstances and background. And, if they are judged in a manner that is incorrect or unfair, they will probably not have enough resources to dispute this judgment.
Dr. Fran Meissner is an assistent professor at Leiden University. She is specialized in researching urban social configurations and how these are transformed through international migration.
Babylon is Burning is a YouTube Talkshow on Digital Culture. It is a co-production between Babylon, Center for the study of Superdiversity (Tilburg University) and Diggit Magazine (www.diggitmagazine.com). Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel and help us unlock new affordances allowing us to bring you better content.