From Language Brokering to Digital Brokering: Refugee Settlement in a Smartphone Age
journal contributionposted on 03.05.2021, 06:57 by Shane WorrellShane Worrell
Many young people in migrant families perform language-brokering tasks for their parents to help them overcome their everyday challenges of communicating in a new language. Such informal brokering is typically the result of younger people being more exposed to, and becoming more familiar with, the dominant language of their new country. This article argues that such brokering has a digital equivalent in a migrant setting, in which transnational family communication increasingly relies on a grasp of the dominant “language” of smartphones and social media. Using data drawn from a study of Karen humanitarian migrants who have settled in Australia, younger migrants are shown to have had a greater exposure to, and familiarity with, digital technology than their parents, leading to significant communicative differences between two generations. Such differences, I explain, have created conditions conducive to the performance of a new type of intergenerational support in a migrant context: “digital” brokering. This is demonstrated through young people helping their parents use smartphones, social media, and video-calling apps to maintain transnational relationships after settlement.