February 2015

From Dissertation in Progress
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I have been struggling with starting to write the chapter on the Internet. It has not been easy to organize the mess of qualitative data related to the online activities and experiences of the participants of my study. Although my argument seems to be clear in relation to how the five latino/hispanic immigrant youth are all connected and active online, it has been difficult to refine my critical approach. How can I reveal the peripheral participation they have? How can I show the lack of resources and the lack of effective participation? How can I show that even if their online practices help them to assimilate, they remind limited? One interesting aspect to show is how this tools are helping them to indeed connect to the U.S culture and society and to assimilated in terms of culture and language. However they are missing the opportunities to connect to their home cultures. Is that good? or bad? How about the individualistic practices and uses they have of the web and their networks? It seems they do not totally leverage the power of the networks for helping their families, nor fostering their ethnic identity and cultural resources. In a way, they use the internet to be away from that and do not explore it to connect to those roots. How does that affect what they can do online? How do that affect their agency.

Of course, they are being active online and connecting to many sources of information, also performing identities, and hanging out with their peers. Their peer culture is being fostered. At some moments some of them are also active in terms of civics and politics, but none of those activities are related to their identities as LAtino/Hispanic and Mexican immigrants. How do that influence their agency. They do not talk about that. But I just wonder if that kind of regretting or hideness of their ethnic identity limits what they do online. Also , questions of geography, power, hierarchy and descrimination play here. None of them talks about that, but I wonder if it is there, in the digital space, and is one of the reasons why they do not engage beyond clicking or subscribing to channels. They are also young, and have been online just for some years, in SNS for 2-3 years. They are still learning to be in cyberspaces.


Thinking about ideas for the introduction of the dissertation:

  • Narrate experience in Austin, as spanish speaker and south american. Identification and positioning as "hispanic" "latino and "mexican"
  • Everyday life and encounters with people from Mexican origin. Workers. Working class. Kitchens, gardeners, housekeepers, cleaners, cable guys, service workers, construction workers.
  • Foods and street names.
  • On the radio.
  • Immigrants who have lost their Spanish language. Theyr cultural capital. Lost of transnational connections.
  • a well established local culture of Mexicans.
  • i-35 as a connection with MX

Anecdotes could mention the immigrnats generations who have lost their language and wish they could speak Spanish.


Explain role of the chapter on social media platforms in the dissertation:

After having examined how new media practices and skills developed at the family/home and afterschool contexts shaped the process of assimilation, this chapter provides another layer of analysis for understanding the uneveness of this process. Especifically, in this chapter I analyze the activities developed by Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths online, on the multi-context of several social media networked spaces. Ellaborating a critical analysis I explain the characteristics of these youths participation in what have been described by some scholars as a networked communication environment that is more participatory and democratic. In order to do so, I look at the motivations, practices, skills, and supports that these youths had as they became active users/participants of several social media platforms. I critically engage with the literature on participatory cultures and genres of participation and reveal the limitations and possibilities of the activities developed by these Latino/Hispanic youths online. Although I use the categories of friendship-driven and interest-driven genres of participation, I point out to the especific characteristics that such genres had when developed by Latino/Hispanic working class immigrant youth. Given the lack of social, cultural, human, and economic resources, the participation of these youths in social media networked spaces is paradoxical, marked both by connectedness and disconnectedness. However, although the potential for leveraging digital networked technologies is not fully realized, my analysis also reveals that the activities developed online are helping these youths to advance in their assimilation process, especially in the cultural and linguistic dimensions. By addressing the paradoxical nature of the participation in social media networked spaces, this chapter makes a significant contribution to the dissertation and our understanding of the evolution of digital and participation gaps. It provides qualitative evidence on how the assimilation process of five Latino/Hispanic working class immigrant youth is uneven, segmented, and shaped by activities developed in social media networked spaces. The chapter is connected to the previous chapters through the thematic threads of new media practices, skills, and differential access to resources.

The two questions that drive the narrative of this chaper are:

- What are the characteristics of Latino/Hispanic working class immigrant youths participation in social media platforms? What is the quality of their engagement, content, and social networks (diversity, richness)?

- How does participation in these networked spaces help Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths to advance their process of assimilation? Which new media practices and skills are they developing at this multi-context of activity and how are they shaping their assimilation?

Other extra questions:

- What are the spaces where they are participating? hanging out, messing around, geeking out?

- What are the social media networked spaces where they participate?


Regarding the generational status of the subjects of my dissertation, all of them can be considered immigrants involved in assimilation process according to the theoretical framework I use. The notion of assimilation is contested. There are many definitions, theories, and studies. However, the literature is consistent in that the process happens across several generations. That is why, even if these students have second and 1.5 generational status, they are still, as well as their families, in a process of assimilation to the U.S. There are many approaches to understand this process and I will discuss some of them in the chapter of my theoretical framework. The theories that I am engage with are the ones of segmented assimilation and my goal in this project has been precisely to make a contribution to them given their lack of attention to immigrant media practices. Researchers from this paradigm have relied in studying second generation immigrants (native born) in order to understand the incorporation of immigrants to a host society.

The idea of second generation immigrant youths navigating two worlds is interesting and I do not see it as opposed to the one of assimilation. As a matter of fact learning the customs of the host culture and learning to navigate its institutions has been considered part of the assimilation process Since the models of assimilation usually include at least three generations, doing such activities is an essential step in a longer process of assimilation. Researchers of the segemented assimilation, for instance, have included the possibility of navigating two worlds in their models of assimilation trajectories. According to them, the split of the two worlds is characteristic of two different trajectories: downward social mobility with dissonant acculturation between parents and children, and time-honored mobility with selective acculturation (both parents and children becoming bicultural). What I have found in my analysis is that the split of two worlds does not necessarily leads to downward mobility and dissonant acculturation even if the parents, with the exception of Gabriela's, are not becoming bicultural.

I would speculate that the split between the worlds of the home/family and school/peer/popular culture has become thinner and softer given the affordances of the new media technologies and practices. As I discussed in the chapter about the home/family, these youths live in households that are networked and where the two worlds can be accessed and juxtaposed. Furthermore, as my analysis reveals, their immigrant parents are also invested in supporting the access to the U.S. school/peer/popular culture world at home by buying media technologies such as computers, game consoles, and providing access to the internet. One of the interesting findings of this study is to notice how even if the five immigrant youths are navigating two worlds, the worlds are no longer as separated but are becoming juxtaposed (especially at home) in a way that does not create as much conflict as the segmented assimilation researchers have previously argued. Hence, I would say that digital tools and networks and the networked communication environment are allowing these Latino/Hispanic immigrant youths to advance their process of assimilation, especially in the cultural and linguistic dimension, in a faster way. This process, contrast to what segmented assimilation researchers have theorized, is not necessarily leading to confrontation with their less acculturated parents and downward mobility, even if the context of reception is the one of working class and marginalized communities.

The issue of ethnicity and identity is very important and I definitely avoid arguing that these youths are becoming fully Americanized. However, given the data that we have it is difficult to make compelling claims about how these youths are mantaining their Mexican costumes and ethnic traits alive. What our data reveals is that in terms of language, education, and popular culture, all the five youths are assimilating to the U.S. and becoming acculturated very fast. Hence, although I wont say they are completely loosing their ethnic traits, I would argue they are becoming bicultural and more confortable identifying with that identity. Although the data on their self-identification is scare, I have quotations from the interviews with Antonio, Inara, Gabriela, and Sergio, where they claim they belong to both cultures and idenfify either as Latinas, Hispanics, or Mexican-Americans. I have planned to refer to this self-identification and biculturalism in the dissertation conclusion and have avoided addressin the issue of ethnic identity fully in the other chapters given the few data that we have. For instance, it is difficult to argue that they are holding their customs and ethnic traits, and not assimilating, when they rarely write and speak in Spanish (some of them are not even literate in this language and can only speak it) and their interests are rarely connected to Mexico. I think that the lack of connectivity with the Mexican culture is precisely one of the barriers they confront for engaging more fully in social media spaces and cultivating transnational cultural capital. It seems, as other scholars have argued in the context of schooling, that their Mexican cultural capital has been substracted and that limits their networking abilities.


Technologies are not good nor bad, nor even neutral. The internet is also like that. Societies, and their values and structures will shape the uses of technology. Inequalities will be reproduced. And could even be more enhanced with technology. Segregation as well.


Making progress in the chapter about the internet. Now maybe passed the half ot it. Or maybe just arriving to that middle point. Thinking about the conclusions, it is worth to consider these observations:

  • agency in the circulation of media. the sharing of media. although most of the time was about tnetertainment, at some moments was a about more relevant issues. Especially related to the Internet. Showed some of them cared about the Internet, censorship, copyright. Rights to share media content.
  • agency in keeping a network of friends. Extended network. Although it was not diverse nor rich, it existed with more than a hundred contacts. exploring new forms of participatin and civic action. Performance skills. Performing in a new networked communication environment.
  • news. getting news feeds from friends. News from entertainmnet, from the cultural interests they loved it. Not that much about their ethnicity/race nor the country of origin of their families.
  • new language. mastering practicing a new language. more visual, interactive, video driven. new way of develioping conversations.
  • a space for exploring the U.S culture and language. Immersed in a very rich world of information.