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LEARNING IN THE WILD: Migrant user communities on Reddit

Hands typing on a laptop keyboard with a Reddit thread on the laptop screen

This project aims to explore the ways in which social media platforms like Reddit are being used in migration contexts. The research will examine how Redditors (Reddit users) are leveraging migration-related subreddit communities to facilitate self-directed and informal types of learning exchanges online. The project will apply and build on the “learning in the wild” coding schema, the term given to the content analysis of informal learning, exploratory dialogue and communicative exchanges encouraged by and through social media.

  1. How are Reddit users (Redditors) leveraging migration-related subreddit communities? 
  2. What types of information, communication exchanges and discursive practices are presented on Reddit in the context of migration? 
  3. How does the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic manifest in conversations by Redditors? Specifically, what are the key concerns and issues being discussed (e.g., finding jobs, managing finances, testing, vaccines, work safety)?

Digital technologies and social media play a vital role in helping migrants to connect based on shared interests, common identities and beliefs, and cultural affinities with greater ease than ever before. From the rise of language training videos, to app usage among refugee networks, to the growing visibility of online diaspora communities, we can see that migration processes are being shaped by the internet at various stages of a migrant’s journey. This includes online crowdsourcing, or real-time Q&A exchanges as found on Reddit, a forum-based social media platform that has over 430 million users and millions of communities discussing every topic imaginable (e.g., sports, academia, science, memes). In the Reddit environment, for example, we observe conversational learning practices in the subreddit “Immigration Canada” (r/ImmigrationCanada) – evidence that many Redditors today are using this online community to inquire about student visas, to ask for legal help or to bring family from overseas during COVID-19.

Focusing on the Reddit online environment, we apply new research methodologies to discover digital traces and data points to illuminate and evidence the multiple contextual realities and issues comprising the ‘migration experience’ today. The study will use a mixed-methods approach to research and analysis, supplementing publicly available social media data from Reddit conversations with network analysis and digital qualitative methods.

Data collection commenced January 2021 and ended December 2021. Datasets were analyzed using the “learning in the wild” coding schema.

Recently published research includes:

Boichak, O., & Kumar, P. (2021). Mapping the national web: Spaces, cultures and borders of diasporic mobilization in the digital age (external link, opens in new window) . Global Networks.

The work of this project now informs the Virual Bridge project, where Learning in the Wild methods are used to understand the informal learning processes that take place when migrants search for information on how to migrate or integrate into their new society.

CERC Migration

social media, migration, digital methods, content analysis, informal learning