1. bookVolume 43 (2022): Edition 1 (January 2022)
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Migration and community in an age of digital connectivity: A survey of media use and integration amongst migrants in Iceland

Publié en ligne: 10 Feb 2022
Volume & Edition: Volume 43 (2022) - Edition 1 (January 2022)
Pages: 19 - 37
Détails du magazine
License
Format
Magazine
eISSN
2001-5119
Première parution
01 Mar 2013
Périodicité
2 fois par an
Langues
Anglais
Introduction

A rich body of scholarship has highlighted how information and communication technologies enable migrants to maintain ties with different communities (Diminescu, 2008; Licoppe, 2004; Smets et al., 2019). In Touch, a 2018 documentary directed by Paweł Ziemilski, explores virtual connections between Polish migrants in Iceland and their relatives in Poland. Juxtaposing and layering recordings of virtual conversations and images filmed in Poland and Iceland, the documentary visualises the subjects’ virtual co-presence in multiple locations through digital media.

We examine the implications of migrants’ connections to their countries of origin through social and other media (news and current affairs programmes) for their integration in receiving communities. We understand integration as the involvement of migrants in different areas in the receiving society, covering social, economic, and political indicators of integration, as well as subjective experiences in the receiving society. We further ask whether migrants’ use of media from their country of origin is associated with their integration both in offline and digital communities in the receiving society, or whether there are discrepancies between the two. Prior studies show that frequent connections to places of origin through media have a positive effect on migrants’ social integration in receiving societies (Alencar & Deuze, 2017; Licoppe, 2004). At the same time, migrants who use media from their countries of origin more often perceive more discrimination and more negative perspectives about migrants in the receiving society (Itzigsohn & Saucedo, 2002). The important role of media in facilitating migrants’ bonds with different communities calls for a reconceptualisation of integration practices, as there is little research that scrutinises migrants’ integration practices in both online and offline communities (Mittelstädt & Odag, 2015).

We analyse quantitative data derived from a survey conducted amongst migrants in Iceland in 2018 (N = 2,139). A study on Iceland is well-suited for scrutinising digital connectivity of migrants, because the country is situated remotely in the North Atlantic and highly digitalised. Digital connectivity is particularly relevant for people moving to remote destinations, because they have fewer opportunities to maintain contact in other ways, such as through return visits (Dziekońska, 2021).

We begin by introducing the theoretical background and discuss prior findings on social media and media use amongst migrants. We then contextualise Iceland as our case study and describe the method and results of the quantitative analysis. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings.

Theoretical background on digital connectivity and integration
Connected migrants

Earlier research on migration and media was mainly focused on the representation of migrants in the media, but more recently, scholars have investigated the use of media amongst migrants (Rydin & Sjöberg, 2008). Diminescu’s (2008) concept of connected migrants describes a new type of migrant who, due to technological advancements, is able to maintain digital bonds across national borders. Recently, Diminescu (2019: 74) has redefined her definition of connected migrant as “a migrant equipped with at least one digitalised device which enables him/her to instantaneously switch between several lifestyles”. The concept of connected migrants follows transnational perspectives because it challenges earlier depictions of migrants as uprooted from their places of origin (Diminescu, 2019; Glick-Schiller et al., 1992). Instead, connected migrants are characterised by belonging to multiple networks, holding allegiances to several locations and cultures, and having hypermobility and flexibility on the labour market (Diminescu, 2008). Social media (Hofhuis et al., 2019; Yin, 2013) and news and current affairs programmes (Alencar & Deuze, 2017; Vidal, 2018) are often discussed in the literature in this context of changing migration networks through increased digital connectivity. Home country media and “ethnic” media that specifically targets migrants and provides them with information and news from their host country can strengthen migrants’ connections to their place of origin and facilitate the development of new hybrid migrant identities (Yin, 2013).

This increased digital connectivity has far-reaching implications for migration experiences as it gives “a presence to the ‘absent’” (Kernalegenn & Van Haute, 2020: 3), for example, in transnational party politics which continue to influence governance in migrants’ countries of origin (Kernalegenn & Van Haute, 2020; Østergaard-Nielsen & Ciornei, 2018) or new forms of transnational parenting and family relations facilitated by digital media (Madianou & Miller, 2011). These digital communities provide a sense of belonging through “the sense of shared space, rituals of shared practices, and exchange of social support” (Baym, 2010: 86). For many migrants, participation in multiple online and offline communities is an inherent part of their everyday lived realities. Leurs and Ponzanesi (2018), drawing on Diminescu’s work, described this as cosmopolitanism.

The concepts of connected and cosmopolitan migrants emphasise the positive aspects of digital connectivity, representing (new forms of) media as compensation for loss of communication through migration. However, increased digital connectivity should more precisely be understood as changing, rather than only improving, migrants’ bonds with different communities. Digital communities provide different barriers to integration, and social media “can be as much about cutting people off as including them in” (Miller, 2021: 89). Furthermore, information and communication technologies can be both empowering and used as a means of surveillance, which has been described as the “empowerment-control nexus” by Nedelcu and Soysüren (2020). Increased connectivity of migrants thus provides challenges as well as opportunities for migrants’ connections to different communities, including the receiving society.

Digital connectivity and integration in the receiving society

Increased digital connectivity impacts migrants’ integration in receiving societies. While there is no common understanding of integration (Alencar & Deuze, 2017), it is often understood as having a better position on the labour market and being socially and politically involved in the receiving society. More recently, subjective experiences of migrants – such as life satisfaction, the “overall assessment of an individual’s quality of life according to his/her personal judgment and criteria” (Amit, 2009: 516), or trust in the receiving society (Arcand et al., 2020) – have been considered as measures of integration.

The most influential model for understanding immigrants’ integration in receiving societies is Berry’s (1997) acculturation theory, which introduced the following strategies: integration, assimilation, separation, and marginalisation. Integration (or biculturalism), involving a hybrid of both receiving and sending society, is the strategy that is most associated with successful adaption in a receiving society; assimilation rejects the culture of one’s place of origin to adopt that of the receiving society; separation renounces any adoption of the culture of the receiving society; and marginalisation rejects both cultures (Berry, 1997). Berry’s approach remains the most robust framework for explaining migrants’ acculturation, although limitations in his theory have been acknowledged, especially the lack of consideration for more complex individual and cultural attitudes towards integration, as was discussed in detail by Bierwiaczonek and Kunst (2021) and Rudmin (2003). Recent publications have drawn on Berry’s framework to advance understanding of the relationship between migrants’ use of media and their integration in receiving societies (Alencar & Deuze, 2017; Mitra & Evansluong, 2019).

A study on news consumption amongst migrants to the Netherlands and Spain indicated that migrants who use country-of-origin media frequently follow Berry’s integration strategy and actively participate both in the receiving society and the country of origin (Alencar & Deuze, 2017). Another study on Italian migrants in London indicated that “digital togetherness of migrants in the digital space is considerably improving the process of integration in the host society” (Marino, 2015: 5). A possible explanation for the link between transnational connectivity and strong commitment to local communities has been provided by Licoppe (2004), who claimed that high frequencies of digital connectivity to migrants’ countries of origin multiplies feelings of connectedness to both places.

While studies indicate positive links between migrants’ social integration in the receiving society and their digital connectivity, there are indicators that migrants who use more media from their countries of origin feel resistance towards their place of residence, as shown in a study on media consumption amongst Iranian migrants in Norway (Alghasi, 2009). Itzigsohn and Saucedo (2002) coined the term “reactive transnationalism” to describe migrants seeking out connections to their places of origin due to dissatisfaction with life in the receiving society.

The relationship between life satisfaction – which has been considered a factor of integration in recent years (Amit, 2009) – and migrants’ use of media remains understudied, but some studies indicate that a “culture of connectivity” and having access to communities across national borders has positive effects on migrants’ life satisfaction in the receiving society (Liu et al., 2017). Migrants’ connections to their countries of origin can, therefore, be a strategy to cope with being in an unfamiliar culture and environment (Hofhuis et al., 2019; King-O’Riain, 2015).

Given the distinct characteristics of online communities, it is of interest to differentiate between integration in online and offline communities of the receiving society. Mitra and Evansluong (2019: 477) find that the opportunity to maintain constant ties to countries of origin can also lead to migrants having “little incentive to establish both online and offline connections with the host country”. Highlighting distinct practices of media use amongst migrants, Mittelstädt and Odag (2015) suggested a framework for integration that distinguishes between offline and online integration as distinct practices of integration in the receiving society. We aim to advance the understanding of the association between migrants’ contacts with their countries of origin and their integration in receiving societies with a study conducted amongst a sample of migrants in a destination country.

The Icelandic context

Iceland is an island nation of 360,000 inhabitants located in the Atlantic Ocean, with mainland Europe (Norway) being 970 kilometres away and mainland North America being 2,070 kilometres away. Iceland has the highest number of Internet users per capita in the Nordic countries (Europe Internet Stats, 2021), and Facebook is the most popular social media platform and very positively received amongst Icelanders (EMC Rannsóknir, 2019; Guðmundsson, 2019). According to a survey amongst 929 Icelanders (aged 18 and older) conducted by Gallup in 2018, the percentage of Facebook users in Iceland is 93 per cent, the highest in the Nordic countries (MMR, 2018).

The number of migrants in Iceland has increased rapidly in recent years. In September 2020, about 15 per cent of inhabitants in Iceland were migrants, whereas in 2000, migrants comprised only about 3 per cent of the country’s population. We follow Statistics Iceland (2020: para. 2) in defining a migrant as “a person born abroad with both parents foreign born and all grandparents foreign born”.

The Icelandic migrant population is largely driven by labour migration, with many migrants working in the tourism, fishing, and construction industries and care work (Júlíusdóttir et al., 2013). There is a relatively small number of refugees (Ragnarsdóttir, 2020). The largest group of migrants in Iceland (37%) is from Poland (20,477), followed by those from Lithuania (3,277) and the Philippines (2,085) (Statistics Iceland, 2020). Poland’s and Lithuania’s EU memberships in 2004 encouraged migration from these countries to countries within the EEA (Skaptadóttir, 2015). People from Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, increasingly migrated to Iceland during the economic boom of the 2000s, often to work in fisheries (Skaptadóttir, 2015).

Access to the Icelandic labour market is prioritised for migrants from the new EU member states. Consequentially, migrants from the Philippines “increasingly indicate uniting with family as a reason for migrating to Iceland” (Skaptadóttir, 2015: 178). Dziekońska (2021: 145) discussed the case of circular migrants from Poland and how their intention to stay in Iceland temporarily – even though they often stayed longer than intended – “stopped them from entering into close relationships with individuals from the host society”. Dziekońska (2021: 145) added that they surround themselves with Polish customs and culture “also by means of electronic media and transnational communication with family and friends in the homeland”. Migrants from the Philippines maintain ties to their country of origin, particularly through remittances, and mention that connections through digital media are an important factor in ensuring the continuation of these ties (Skaptadóttir, 2019).

The considerable geographical distance between Iceland and mainland Europe and North America affects the way migrants connect to their countries of origin, as frequent return visits are more challenging compared with migrants located closer to their place of origin (Dziekońska, 2021). This geographical separation is reflected in the media use of migrants who maintain ties with their families abroad. A comparative study amongst Polish migrants in Iceland and Austria indicated that migrants in Iceland use computer hardware more often than those in Austria, who use telephones more frequently (Krzyżowski, 2015). The same study showed that migrants in Iceland communicate with their elderly parents more frequently than those in Austria, demonstrating that migrants in Iceland compensated for their absence and infrequency of visits with more frequent communication (Krzyżowski, 2015).

Another study showed that Polish migrants in Iceland who perceive the discourse on migrants more negatively are drawn to Polish-language media (Ólafs & Zielińska, 2010). This could indicate that such migrants resort to reactive transnationalism when confronted with negative portrayals, turning to media from their country of origin rather than Icelandic media. Studies analysing Icelandic media reports between 2006–2010 indicated that “one third of the coverage [about migrants] in Iceland was in relation to crime and police matters” (Ólafs & Zielińska, 2010: 77). Loftsdóttir discussed negative portrayals of Lithuanians in Icelandic media and in the popular Icelandic crime television series Trapped (Loftsdóttir, 2017; Lóftsdóttir et al., 2017). Some of Loftsdóttir’s interlocutors decided not to disclose their country of origin to Icelanders due to the negative public discourse in Iceland about migrants from specific countries (Loftsdóttir, 2017), demonstrating the power of the media on migrants’ integration and trust. The increase of migration to Iceland has encouraged the emergence of different types of ethnic media, particularly Polish-language media, such as a Polish version of the Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV, or the news media Iceland News Polska.

Based on research on migrants’ integration in receiving societies, we examine how migrants’ practices of news consumption and social media consumption relate to their integration in the receiving country. Scholarship demonstrates that media use can be associated both with more effective integration of migrants and with migrants’ withdrawal from interactions in receiving countries. We aim to supplement the number of smaller-scale, often qualitative studies conducted amongst specific groups of migrants with a study on data collected amongst a large number of migrants in a destination country, in order to investigate the factors driving migrants’ media use overall. Having observed that frequent connections to countries of origin are often associated with more integration in the receiving society, our first hypothesis is based on the expectation that migrants who have frequent contact with their countries of origin will also be socially integrated in their place of residence:

Hypothesis 1 (H1): Migrants who are in more contact to their countries of origin through social media and other media are more socially integrated in the receiving society.

We also query the association between migrants’ contact to countries of origin through social and other media and their attitudes towards life in the receiving society. Our second hypothesis is therefore based on the expectation of finding evidence of reactive transnationalism in our study, with migrants who are more dissatisfied with life in the receiving society being less connected abroad:

Hypothesis 2 (H2): Migrants who are in more contact to countries of origin through media and other media express more negative attitudes towards institutions and the public discourse about migration in the receiving society.

As studies have shown that connections to migrants’ countries of origin have positive effects on their well-being, our third hypothesis is based on our expectation of a positive association between frequent connections to country of origin and migrants’ life satisfaction:

Hypothesis 3 (H3): Migrants who use more media from country of origin are more satisfied with life in the receiving society.

Method

The research presented in this article drew on empirical data derived from a quantitative study conducted in 2018. A survey (N = 2,139) was carried out in the form of an online questionnaire amongst migrants in Iceland. The study used convenience and snowball sampling. The University of Akureyri Research Centre (RHA) distributed the survey – available in Icelandic, English, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Arabic, Russian, and Thai – via language schools, social media platforms and, in selected areas, through local assistants who were well-connected to migrant communities in these regions. Participants received written information on the purpose of the study, confidentiality, and anonymity of the data collected. Personal details, such as names, were not collected. Due to the small population of Iceland, additional measures were taken to protect participants’ identities, and instead of collecting information on countries of origin, information of world regions of origin was collected.

Measures

The background variables included were gender, age, world region of origin, time of residence in Iceland, intended time of residence in Iceland, and level of education (see Table 1). We included standard demographic questions in order to gain insight into how factors such as gender, age, and geographic and educational background are associated with media use and to be able to differentiate between different groups of migrants. This approach was justified because media use is “reflecting power differences derived from the intersection of gender, race, class, generation, and geopolitical relationships, within specific social, political and emotional contexts” (Nedelcu & Soysüren, 2020: 4). Intended length of stay in Iceland was included to differentiate between short-term and long-term migrants, as it may affect their motivation to connect to the receiving society (Dziekońska, 2021). Participants could choose between the following world regions: Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America; Central or Eastern Europe; Asia; Africa; Central America; South America; and Other. Due to the low number of participants from the latter five regions, these categories were merged into one for our analysis (“Other”).

Background information of survey respondents

Variable Category Percentage
Gender Female 66.5
Age 18–25 years 12.5
26–40 years 58.5
41–66 years 29.0
World region of origin Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America 21.9
Central or Eastern Europe 65.3
Other 12.7
Time of residence in Iceland < 1 year   9.5
1–2 years 21.2
3–5 years 22.2
6–10 years 18.6
11–20 years 24.3
20+ years   4.2
Intended time of residence < 1 year   5.3
1–2 years   9.8
3–5 years 16.6
6–10 years 11.1
11–20 years   8.9
20+ years 48.2
Education Primary school   4.0
Vocational training 12.2
Matriculation exam 30.7
University degree 48.7
Other   4.5

Media and social media use were measured with three questions. Questions 1 and 3 measure what has been termed “home country media use” (Vidal, 2018; Yin, 2013). Question 2 measures “ethnic media use” (Yin, 2013), meaning migrants’ connections to other migrants from their place of origin residing in the same country.

When you use social media, how often do you follow or communicate with the following types of people? – People from my home country

When you use social media, how often do you follow or communicate with the following types of people? – People from my own country that live in Iceland

How often do you follow news or current affairs programmes in the media of your country of origin?

Frequencies of these questions were measured on a 5-point scale from 1 (never or almost never) to 5 (every day or almost daily). We coded responses to each question dichotomously, where 1 meant daily or almost daily and 2 meant less than daily or almost daily (see Table 2).

Country-of-origin social media contact and media use by migrants in Iceland

Question Daily or almost daily Less than daily or almost daily
Social media contact with people from country of origin (%) 49.4 50.6
Social media contact with people from country of origin living in Iceland (%) 33.6 66.4
Use of media from country of origin (%) 50.8 49.2

We operationalised integration based on several variables (see Table 3) covering social, economic, and political factors that are commonly used to measure integration. We further included life satisfaction and trust in institutions of the receiving society as subjective measures of integration in the receiving society (Amit, 2009; Arcand et al., 2020). As research indicates that migrants perceiving the public discourse about migrants and migration in the receiving society more negatively tend to seek out more connections to their countries of origin through media (Alghasi, 2009; Ólafs & Zielińska, 2010), we also included migrants’ opinion about the public discourse on migrants in Iceland. We investigate migrants’ monthly income before tax – < ISK 200,000 (EUR 1,370); ISK 200,000–399,000 (EUR 2,733); ISK 400,000–599,000 (EUR 4,102); ISK 600,000–899,000 (EUR 6,157); ISK 900,000–1,199,000 (EUR 8,212); and ISK 1,200,000+ – knowing that the medium monthly income in Iceland is ISK 416,000 before tax at the time this survey was conducted (Statistics Iceland, 2018). We further asked whether migrants voted in the municipal elections of 2018 (with possible answers being “yes”, “no”, “did not have the right to vote”, “did not know there were elections”, or “did not know I could vote in this election”) and whether they took part in clubs and activities (“took part” or “did not take part”). Social contact with Icelanders was measured by combining two questions measured on a scale from 1 (never) to 4 (many times): “Have you a.) Invited Icelandic friends to your home? b.) Been invited by Icelandic friends to their home?”

Factors of integration for migrants in Iceland

Variable Category Percentage
Income (%) < ISK 200,000 10.2
ISK 200,000–399,000 47.9
ISK 400,000–599,999 29.2
ISK 600,000–899,000 10.3
ISK 900,000–1,119,000   1.4
ISK 1,200,000+     .9
Vote in municipal elections: did not vote (%) 77.6
Participation in clubs and activities: does not participate (%) 71.3
Social contact with Icelanders (continuous 0–6, mean as % of max value) 56.5
Social media contact with Icelanders (%) Less than daily or almost daily 64.8
Daily or almost daily 35.2
Use of Icelandic media (%) Less than daily or almost daily 68.7
Daily or almost daily 31.3
Experiences of discrimination (continuous 0–24, mean as % of max value) 27.2
Trust in institutions in Iceland (continuous 0–20, mean as % of max value) 58.5
Opinion about public discussion on migrants in Iceland (%) Too positive   5.4
Somehow too positive 19.7
Neither too positive nor too negative 48.1
Somehow negative 23.3
Too negative   3.6
Overall satisfaction with life in municipality (%) Unsatisfied or neutral 31.1
Satisfied 68.9

Migrants’ social media contact with Icelanders was measured by asking the following question: “When you use social media, how often do you follow or communicate with the following types of people? – Icelanders and other people I have met in Iceland”. We further investigated migrants’ use of media from their countries of origin by asking the following question: “How often do you follow news or current affairs programmes in the media of your country of origin?” Frequencies of these questions were measured on a 5-point scale from 1 (never or almost never) to 5 (every day or almost daily). We further investigated migrants’ experiences of discrimination in Iceland. This was measured by asking the following questions that were combined into one variable:

Have you experienced any of the following incidents in Iceland? a.) People have made fun of my accent, b.) I have been treated in an unfriendly manner in a shop or supermarket, c.) I have not been hired for a job because of my background, d.) I have been paid less than my Icelandic co-workers for the same kind of work.

Trust in institutions in Iceland was measured with the following questions that were combined into one variable and measured on a scale from 1 (a lot of trust) to 5 (no trust at all):

How much trust do you have in the following institutions in Iceland? a.) The police, b.) Parliament [Alþingi], c.) Job centres (the directorate of labour), d.) Schools in Iceland, e.) The health care system.

We further investigated migrants’ opinions about current discussions about migrants and migration in Iceland with the following question measured on a 5-point scale from 1 (too positive) to 5 (too negative): “In your opinion is the public discussion in Iceland about migrants…”. The variable for life satisfaction in Iceland was measured with the following question measured on a 5-point scale from 1 (very unsatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied): “On the whole, how satisfied are you with living in your municipality?”

Analytic approach

To explore determinants of digital connectivity, we performed three binomial logistics regression analyses (method enter) for the following dependent variables: social media contact with people from respondents’ country of origin; social media contact with people from respondents’ country of origin living in Iceland; and use of media from respondents’ country of origin. To correct for multiple comparisons calculating p-values, we used the Bonferroni-Dunn correction. In the multiple comparisons in the regression analyses, we divided the alpha level of .05 by the number of comparisons being made and therefore report only on significance below the relevant threshold.

Results

Tables 13 provide descriptive statistics for the following background variables: use of media and social media, and integration in the receiving society. Almost half of all respondents (49%) reported connecting with people from their country of origin on social media daily or almost daily. A third of respondents (34%) reported connecting with people from their countries of origin living in Iceland daily or almost daily. Slightly over half of all respondents (51%) reported using media from their countries of origin daily or almost daily. About two-thirds of the respondents (65%) were born in Central or Eastern Europe (73% of these answered in Polish); about one-fifth (22%) in Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America (73% of these answered in English); and 13 per cent in Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, or other countries (61% answered in English).

Social media contact with people from country of origin

The results of the regression analyses for migrants’ social media contact with people from their country of origin are shown in Table A1 (see the Appendix). Female migrants were in more contact with people from their country of origin. Those who had been in Iceland for a short time only were likely to be in more contact with their place of origin through social media than those who had been there longer. Those who were actively participating in clubs and activities in Iceland were less likely to maintain frequent online contact with people from their countries of origin. More contact with people from countries of origin online was associated with less social contact with Icelanders offline, but with more contact with Icelanders on social media. The other factors in the regression model were not significant predictors.

Social media contact with people from country of origin living in Iceland

The results of the regression analyses for migrants’ social media contact with people from their country of origin living in Iceland are shown in Table A2 (see the Appendix). Migrants from Central or Eastern Europe and the heterogenous group “Other” were in more frequent contact with people from their countries of origin living in Iceland than those from Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America. Those who had been in Iceland for less than 11–20 years had less contact with people from their countries of origin living in Iceland. Migrants who completed an apprenticeship were more likely to be in contact with people from their countries of origin than those who have a university education. Those who voted in municipal elections had less contact with people from their countries of origin living in Iceland. Those who were in frequent contact with Icelanders had less contact with people from their countries of origin living in Iceland on social media. Frequent contact with Icelanders online was associated with frequent contact with people from migrants’ countries of origin online. The other factors in the regression model were not significant predictors.

Use of media from country of origin

The results of the regression analyses for migrants’ use of country-of-origin media are shown in Table A3 (see the Appendix). Female migrants used media from their country of origin less frequently, while younger migrants used media from their countries of origin more frequently. Migrants who had been in Iceland 11–20 years were more likely to use media from their countries of origin than those who had been in Iceland for shorter time or for more than 20 years. Participants who intended to stay in Iceland for a shorter time consumed media from their countries of origin more frequently than those intending to stay more than 20 years. Those who actively participated in clubs and activities in Iceland were less likely to use media from their countries of origin. Those who consumed media from their countries of origin more frequently had less contact with Icelanders offline but used Icelandic media more frequently. The other factors in the regression model were not significant predictors.

Migrants’ digital connectivity to countries of origin and integration in receiving societies

Prior studies emphasise the positive effect of migrants’ use of media from their countries of origin on their integration in receiving societies (Alencar & Deuze, 2017; Licoppe, 2004). Our findings provide a more nuanced perspective on migrants’ integration in communities across national borders. On the one hand, when the social factors “inviting Icelanders to your home and being invited by Icelanders to their home” and “participation in clubs and activities” are used as indicators for integration, those with more frequent contact with people from their country of origin are less integrated. On the other hand, we find that highly connected migrants are also more connected to the receiving society through media. Almost half of migrants in Iceland use social media and other media daily or almost daily to connect to their countries of origin, 30 per cent of which are with people from their country of origin living in Iceland.

Our research partially confirms H1, that migrants who engage with their countries of origin through media and social media are also integrated in the receiving societies, thus practicing the integration strategy in Berry’s model (Alencar & Deuze, 2017). However, it is noteworthy that we only find evidence of this form of biculturalism with regards to media use, and not regarding other factors of integration. Drawing on Berry’s (1997) model, this strategy is a form of digital biculturalism. Mitra and Evansluong (2019: 477) argue that migrants who are highly connected to their countries of origin “have little incentive to establish both online and offline connections with the host country”. Our findings indicate that this is the case for offline interactions, in which migrants with frequent contact to their countries of origin tend to participate less, but not for online activities. The practice of digital biculturalism and less integration in offline activities of the receiving society is in accordance with Miller’s (2021: 89) findings that “social media can effectively become the primary ‘home’ for an individual”.

The fact that migrants who are more connected to their countries of origin tend to be less involved in receiving societies could be explained by reactive transnationalism. Prior studies abroad (Alghasi, 2009); Itzigsohn & Saucedo, 2002) and in Iceland (Loftsdóttir, 2017; Ólafs & Zielińska, 2010) indicated that migrants with more negative attitudes towards the receiving society seek out connections with their countries of origin. We therefore expected to find evidence of reactive transnationalism in our study (H2); however, our findings do not support this conclusion. Migrants with frequent contact with their countries of origin do not differ from other migrants in their opinion about the local discourse on migrants in Iceland, level of trust in institutions in the receiving society, and experiences of discrimination.

Due to evidence that migrants’ connections abroad have a positive impact on their life satisfaction, we expected those with more connections abroad to express higher life satisfaction (H3). Our findings do not support this hypothesis, as we do not find an association between life satisfaction and migrants’ media use. A possible explanation for this finding is that both online and offline communities can provide the benefits of sharing space and social support with other members of digital communities (Baym, 2010). Thus, being a member of digital communities seems to be sufficient, or the primary way of socialising, for some digitally connected cosmopolitan migrants. This might be explained by Licoppe’s (2004) statement that digital connectivity to both places multiplies feelings of connectedness.

We also investigated other areas of integration, finding that economic integration was not associated with migrants’ media use and that political integration (voting) was associated with less contact with people from migrants’ countries of origin living in Iceland. This could indicate a segregation strategy in terms of political involvement, where migrants who are in more contact with other people from their country of origin are less integrated in the receiving community, politically speaking. Our study has implications for studies on migrant integration in the digital age because we identify offline and online integration as two distinct spheres of integration. Online integration in the receiving society might be considered as an additional, distinct factor used to measure social integration in receiving communities.

A few demographic factors were associated with migrants’ use of media from their country of origin. Overall, we find those factors were not relevant in explaining migrants’ connections abroad in comparison with other factors. We find that those intending to stay for a shorter time consume news and current affairs programmes from their countries of origin less but have more contact with their countries of origin. This is in line with the result that younger migrants used media from their country of origin more frequently, indicating that migrants have fewer contacts through social and other media to their countries of origin over time.

We identify differences in media use with regards to gender. Women are in more frequent contact with their country of origin through social media but consume news and current affairs programmes from their country of origin less frequently. This can be explained by different preferences for media use or different types of migration, with men being more likely to move for work and women for family reasons (Skaptadóttir, 2015).

Migrants from Western Europe, Nordic Countries, and North America are less likely to be in contact with people from their countries of origin living in Iceland. This can be explained by the size of the group of migrants from these regions, giving access to a larger group of migrants from the same place of origin, and the availability of social media groups and ethnic media targeting, for example, Polish migrants in Iceland. Furthermore, migration from Central and Eastern Europe is often circular labour migration, rather than migration because of family reasons where a network in Iceland already exists. Another possible explanation might be that discrimination experienced by migrants who are not from Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America (Lóftsdóttir, 2017; Lóftsdóttir et al., 2017) results in migrants being more inclined to seek out the community and comfort provided by ethnic media and by people from the same country of origin.

The results from this study conducted in Iceland is unique to some degree because of Iceland’s remote location and high digitalisation, resulting in migrants having fewer options for maintaining contact with people from their countries of origin (Krzyżowski, 2015). Furthermore, with migration being a relatively recent development in Iceland, the number of second-generation migrants is relatively small, and the tradition of transnational migrant communities is not as anchored as in other European places with third or fourth generations of migrants.

Basing our study on data collected amongst a large number of migrants in a destination country allows us to demonstrate the factors that drive migrants’ media use overall. We can thus supplement the number of smaller-scale, often qualitative studies conducted amongst specific groups of migrants. However, limitations of our study need to be acknowledged. We only focus on two types of media (social media and news and current affairs programmes). Further research could differentiate between types of media (e.g., different platforms, including print media). Furthermore, future research could expand this topic by including use of media from other locations, which would reflect the realities of migrants who maintain transnational bonds in multiple places. Another limitation is that the question about social media contact with migrants’ countries of origin does not specify whether the people connected with are in the country of origin. Future studies could differentiate between contact with people or groups located in countries of origin and those located in other countries. Since we used convenience and snowball sampling, we received a higher response rate amongst educated migrants who were more willing to share their experiences. Studies targeting hard-to-reach members of the population specifically, for example, circular migrants (Dziekońska, 2021), might add further insights into migrants’ relationship to the receiving society and their media use.

Conclusion

Information and communication technologies enable migrants to maintain bonds with multiple localities. This is exemplified in our study, because half the participants use social and other media from their countries of origin daily or almost daily. We distinguish two distinct spheres of migrant integration through offline and online spaces. Drawing on Berry’s (1997) integration strategy, we conclude that highly connected migrants engage in a form of digital biculturalism: They maintain active bonds with both receiving and sending societies through media. They tend to be less integrated in terms of offline activities, such as inviting Icelanders to their home or being invited by Icelanders to their homes, indicating that social and other media is the primary way of creating bonds with the country of origin and receiving society for some migrants. Our study thus has implications for studies on migrant integration, as our findings indicate the importance of distinguishing between integration in offline and online communities to adequately reflect how migrants form communities and a sense of belonging in the digital age.

Factors of integration for migrants in Iceland

Variable Category Percentage
Income (%) < ISK 200,000 10.2
ISK 200,000–399,000 47.9
ISK 400,000–599,999 29.2
ISK 600,000–899,000 10.3
ISK 900,000–1,119,000   1.4
ISK 1,200,000+     .9
Vote in municipal elections: did not vote (%) 77.6
Participation in clubs and activities: does not participate (%) 71.3
Social contact with Icelanders (continuous 0–6, mean as % of max value) 56.5
Social media contact with Icelanders (%) Less than daily or almost daily 64.8
Daily or almost daily 35.2
Use of Icelandic media (%) Less than daily or almost daily 68.7
Daily or almost daily 31.3
Experiences of discrimination (continuous 0–24, mean as % of max value) 27.2
Trust in institutions in Iceland (continuous 0–20, mean as % of max value) 58.5
Opinion about public discussion on migrants in Iceland (%) Too positive   5.4
Somehow too positive 19.7
Neither too positive nor too negative 48.1
Somehow negative 23.3
Too negative   3.6
Overall satisfaction with life in municipality (%) Unsatisfied or neutral 31.1
Satisfied 68.9

Binomial logistic regression (enter) of social media contact with people from country of origin

Variable Category B (SE) OR 95% CI
Gender: Female* .33 (.13) 1.38 1.08–1.78
Age (reference: 41–66 years) 18–25 years .00 (.21) 1.00   .66–1.52
26–40 years -.21 (.14) .81   .61–1.07
World region of origin (reference: Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America) Central or Eastern Europe -.05 (.15) .95   .71–1.27
Other .17 (.21) 1.18   .79–1.77
Length of residence in Iceland (reference: 11–20 years) < 1 year** .83 (.25) 2.30 1.42–3.77
1–2 years .44 (.20) 1.55 1.05–2.30
3–5 years .30 (.19) 1.35   .94–1.95
6–10 years .04 (.18) 1.05   .74–1.47
20+ years -.32 (.31) .73   .39–1.34
Intended length of residence (reference: 20+ years) < 1 year .24 (.26) 1.27   .76–2.14
1–2 years .29 (.21) 1.33   .88–2.01
3–5 years .10 (.17) 1.10   .79–1.54
6–10 years .20 (.19) 1.22   .84–1.77
11–20 years -.09 (.20) .91   .62–1.35
Education (reference: University degree) Primary school -.67 (.32) .51   .28–.96
Vocational training .24 (.19) 1.27   .87–1.85
Matriculation exam -.12 (.14) .87   .68–1.16
Other exam .22 (.28) 1.24   .72–2.14
Income (reference: ISK 200,000–399,000) < ISK 200,000 -.22 (.20) .80   .54–1.20
ISK 400,000–599,000 -.04 (.13) .96   .74–1.24
ISK 600,000–899,000 -.23 (.20) .79   .54–1.17
ISK 900,000–1,199,000 .28 (.51) 1.32   .49–3.55
ISK 1,200,000+ -.98 (.74) .38   .09–1.60
Vote in municipal elections (reference: voted) -.05 (.17) .95   .68–1.32
Participation in clubs and activities (reference: participating)** -.38 (.13) .69   .53–.89
Social contact with Icelanders*** -.14 (.03) .87   .82–.93
Social contact with Icelanders on social media (reference: almost daily)*** 1.64 (.13) 5.18 4.01–6.69
Use of Icelandic media (reference: almost daily) .09 (.13) 1.09   .85–1.41
Experiences of discrimination .02 (.01) 1.00   .98–1.03
Trust in institutions in Iceland .03 (.01) 1.00   .98–1.03
Opinion on discussion on migrants (reference: too negative) Too positive -.28 (.39) .75   .35–1.61
Somehow too positive -.25 (.33) .78   .40–1.49
Neither nor -.28 (.31) .75   .41–1.39
Somehow negative -.33 (.32) .93   .39–1.20
Satisfaction with life in municipality (reference: satisfied) -.07 (.13) .93   .72–1.20
Intercept -.06 (.48) .95
Model χ 2 (df)*** 259.5 (36)
R2 (Nagelkerke) .20
R2 (Cox and Snell) .15

Background information of survey respondents

Variable Category Percentage
Gender Female 66.5
Age 18–25 years 12.5
26–40 years 58.5
41–66 years 29.0
World region of origin Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America 21.9
Central or Eastern Europe 65.3
Other 12.7
Time of residence in Iceland < 1 year   9.5
1–2 years 21.2
3–5 years 22.2
6–10 years 18.6
11–20 years 24.3
20+ years   4.2
Intended time of residence < 1 year   5.3
1–2 years   9.8
3–5 years 16.6
6–10 years 11.1
11–20 years   8.9
20+ years 48.2
Education Primary school   4.0
Vocational training 12.2
Matriculation exam 30.7
University degree 48.7
Other   4.5

Country-of-origin social media contact and media use by migrants in Iceland

Question Daily or almost daily Less than daily or almost daily
Social media contact with people from country of origin (%) 49.4 50.6
Social media contact with people from country of origin living in Iceland (%) 33.6 66.4
Use of media from country of origin (%) 50.8 49.2

Binomial logistic regression (enter) of social media contact with people from country of origin living in Iceland

Variable Category B (SE) OR 95% CI
Gender (reference: female) .17 (.14) 1.18   .90–1.56
Age (reference: 41–66 years) 18–25 years .15 (.23) 1.16   .74–1.80
26–40 years -.07 (.15) .93   .69–1.26
World region of origin (reference: Western Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America) Central or Eastern Europe*** .95 (.17) 2.59   .71–2.97
Other** .62 (.24) 1.87 1.85–3.63
Length of residence in Iceland (reference: 11–20 years) < 1 year -.64 (.27) .53 0.31–.89
1–2 years*** -.82 (.22) .44   .29–.68
3–5 years** -.57 (.20) .57   .38–.84
6–10 years -.37 (.18) .69   .48–1.00
20+ years -.30 (.35) .74   .38–1.47
Intended length of residence (reference: 20+ years) < 1 year -.22 (.29) .81   .45–1.43
1–2 years -.31 (.24) .74   .46–1.75
3–5 years .27 (.19) 1.31   .91–1.89
6–10 years -.16 (.21) .85   .56–1.30
11–20 years -.17 (.21) 1.18   .78–1.79
Education (reference: University degree) Primary school .06 (.33) 1.06   .56–2.03
Vocational training** .63 (.20) 1.88 1.26–2.80
Matriculation exam .14 (.15) 1.15   .86–1.53
Other exam -.25 (.33) 0.78   .41–1.49
Income (reference: ISK 200,000–399,000) < ISK 200,000 -.46 (.20) 0.63   .40–.97
ISK 400,000–599,000 -.24 (.14) 0.79   .60–1.05
ISK 600,000–899,000 -.19 (.21) 0.83   .55–1.26
ISK 900,000–1,199,000 .54 (.51) 1.71   .63–4.62
ISK 1,200,000+ -20.41 (.74) .00   .00
Vote in municipal elections (reference: voted)* -.39 (.18) .68   .47–.97
Participation in clubs and activities (reference: participating) -.15 (.14) .86   .65–1.15
Social contact with Icelanders*** -.17 (.04) .85   .79–.90
Social contact with Icelanders on social media (reference: almost daily)*** 2.06 (.14) 7.83 5.93–10.3
Use of Icelandic media (reference: almost daily) -.08 (.14) .92   .69–1.21
Experiences of discrimination -.01 (.02) .99   .96–1.02
Trust in institutions in Iceland -.01 (.02) .99   .96–1.02
Opinion on discussion on migrants (reference: too negative) Too positive .20 (.42) 1.22 0.53–2.78
Somehow too positive -.09 (.37) .92 0.45–1.90
Neither nor -.06 (.35) .95 0.48–1.87
Somehow negative -.09 (.35) .91 0.46–1.81
Satisfaction with life in municipality (reference: satisfied) -.04 (.14) .96 0.72–1.27
Intercept -.87 (.53) .42
Model χ2 (df)*** 331.7 (36)
R2 (Nagelkerke) .26
R2 (Cox and Snell) .19

Binomial logistic regression (enter) of use of media from country of origin

Variable Category B (SE) OR 95% CI
Gender: female** -.29 (.13) .75   .58–.95
Age (reference: 41-66 years) 18–25 years*** -1.01 (.21) .37   .24–.55
26–40 years*** -.62 (.14) .54   .41–.71
World region of origin (reference: Western Central or Eastern
Europe, Nordic Countries, or North America) Europe -.12 (.15) .89   .67–1.18
Other -.35 (.21) .71   .47–1.06
Length of residence in Iceland (reference: 11–20 years) < 1 year** -.81 (.25) .45   .27–.73
1–2 years*** -.96 (.20) .39   .26–.57
3–5 years** -.63 (.19) .53   .37–.77
6–10 years** -.53 (.17) .59   .42–.83
20+ years** -.87 (.31) .42   .23–.76
Intended length of residence (reference: 20+ years) < 1 year .51 (.26) 1.67 1.01–2.76
1–2 years .38 (.21) 1.47   .98–2.20
3–5 years** .58 (.17) 1.79 1.28–2.50
6–10 years** .52 (.19) 1.68 1.15–2.44
11–20 years .20 (.20) 1.22   .83–1.80
Education (reference: University degree) Primary school -.10 (.30) .90   .50–1.63
Vocational training -.04 (.19) .96   .66–1.40
Matriculation exam -.10 (.14) .90   .69–1.18
Other exam -.50 (.28) .61   .35–1.05
Income (reference: ISK 200,000–399,000) < ISK 200,000 .02 (.20) 1.02   .69–1.52
ISK 400,000–599,000 .05 (.13) 1.05   .82–1.36
ISK 600,000–899,000 -.06 (.19) .94   .64–1.37
ISK 900,000–1,199,000 .16 (.47) 1.18   .47–2.97
ISK 1,200,000+ -.21 (.69) .81   .21–3.11
Vote in municipal elections (reference: voted) -.32 (.17) .73   .53–1.01
Participation in clubs and activities (reference: participating)*** -.47 (.13) .63   .49–.81
Social contact with Icelanders*** -.12 (.03) .89   .83–.94
Social contact with Icelanders on social media (reference: almost daily) .10 (.12) 1.02   .87–1.4
Use of Icelandic media (reference: almost daily)*** 1.11 (.13) 3.03 2.34–3.93
Experiences of discrimination .02 (.01) 1.02   .99–1.05
Trust in institutions in Iceland -.02 (.01) .98   .95–1.01
Opinion on discussion on migrants (reference: too negative) Too positive -.15 (.38) 0.86   .41–1.81
Somehow too positive .18 (.33) 1.19   .63–2.26
Neither nor -.14 (.31) .87   .48–1.60
Somehow negative -.25 (.31) .78   .43–1.44
Satisfaction with life in municipality (reference: satisfied) -.01 (.13) .99   .77–1.28
Intercept*** 1.71 (.48) 5.53
Model χ2 (df)*** 223.6 (36)
R2 (Nagelkerke) .17
R2 (Cox and Snell) .13

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