8-2 Table of Con­tents | http://​dx​.doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​7​4​2​/​I​M​A​G​E​.​L​D​.​8​.​2.6 | Lighte­talPDF


Infra­struc­tures of Dis/Connection: Of Drones, Migra­tion, and Dig­i­tal Care

Abstract | Migra­tion from sub-Saha­ran Africa to North­ern Europe is imag­ined and visu­al­ized as the move­ment of human bod­ies along dif­fer­ent ter­ri­to­ries, even­tu­al­ly tra­vers­ing the geo­graph­i­cal­ly locat­able line of the EU bor­der. What this con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of migra­tion, mobil­i­ty, and the bor­der leaves unac­knowl­edged is that all three are mate­r­i­al-vir­tu­al phe­nom­e­na. This paper address­es the infra­struc­tures of mobil­i­ty that can be traced and ana­lyzed with­in a migrant route from Niger to Ger­many. We high­light the need to con­nect and/or dis­con­nect as strate­gies of migra­tion and envis­age ways to sup­port free­dom of move­ment by bring­ing aspects of dig­i­tal care work into the analy­sis.

Infra­struc­tures de dé/connexion : drones, migra­tions et soins numériques

Résumé | La migra­tion de l'Afrique sub­sa­hari­enne vers l'Europe du Nord est imag­inée et visu­al­isée comme le mou­ve­ment des corps sur dif­férents ter­ri­toires, tra­ver­sant éventuelle­ment la ligne géo­graphique­ment local­is­able de la fron­tière de l'UE. Ce que cette con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion de la migra­tion, de la mobil­ité et de la fron­tière ne recon­naît pas, c'est que les trois sont des phénomènes matériels et virtuels. Cet arti­cle abor­de les infra­struc­tures de mobil­ité qui peu­vent remon­tées et être analysées au sein d'une route migrante allant du Niger à l'Allemagne. Nous soulignons la néces­sité de se con­necter et/ou de se décon­necter en tant que straté­gies de migra­tion et envis­ageons des moyens d’appuyer la lib­erté de cir­cu­la­tion en inté­grant des aspects du tra­vail en soins numériques dans l'analyse.


Evan Light | York Uni­ver­si­ty
Jut­ta Lauth Bacas | Uni­ver­si­ty of Mal­ta
Daphne Drag­o­na | Berlin
Katrin M. Kämpf | Hum­bolt Uni­ver­si­ty
Mar­ta Peira­no | Writer, Jour­nal­ist, Activist
Valenti­na Pelizzer | OneWorld Plat­form
Christi­na Rogers | Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty of Dres­den
Flo­ri­an Sprenger | Goethe Uni­ver­si­ty Frank­furt
Jaron Rowan | BAU, Cen­tro Uni­ver­si­tario de Dis­eño de Barcelona
Abi­ol Lual Deng | Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Infrastructures of Dis/Connection: Of Drones, Migration, and Digital Care


*Please read this article alongside the StoryMap available here: StoryMap.


Migration and Infrastructures of Mobility

In the cur­rent migra­tion regime, the dig­i­tal ver­sions of migrants—their data shadows—can trav­el at high speed with com­plete dis­re­gard for nation­al bor­ders, often through the same under­sea cables that car­ry intel­li­gence and com­mands for drone oper­a­tions in Sub-Saha­ran Africa. At the same time, the bod­i­ly ver­sions of migrants may be stuck in refugee camps on the Greek Islands, in traf­fick­ing hotspots in Niger, or in deten­tion cen­ters in Libya. A com­plex net of infra­struc­tures, con­sist­ing of under­sea cables, data­bas­es, com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels, phys­i­cal bor­ders, camps, and hotspots forms the back­bone of this para­dox­i­cal assem­blage of data flows and human (im)mobility.

Migra­tion is an act of move­ment across bor­ders that depends upon these infra­struc­tures. The fol­low­ing intro­duc­to­ry remarks give a basic out­line of the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work that informed our work on the Sto­ryMap. Tech­ni­cal infra­struc­tures can be defined by their abil­i­ty to trans­form something—objects, peo­ple, data—on dif­fer­ent lev­els of scale (Larkin). In this sense, they fos­ter move­ments between sep­a­rate sys­tems, high­light­ed through­out the map. By using infra­struc­tures to trav­el, we are always cross­ing the vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble bor­ders that exist between these infra­struc­tures. Migra­to­ry move­ments, as shown by the map, are char­ac­ter­ized by the fact that they con­stant­ly need to cross bor­ders and thus trav­el between dif­fer­ent sys­tems and their respec­tive com­po­nents. Due to their trans­for­ma­tive impact on mate­r­i­al forms and their dis­tri­b­u­tion in time and space, as well as their lit­er­al state as pas­sages of inter­sec­tion, bor­ders serve as media of exchange. Bor­ders are places where objects are clas­si­fied and cat­e­go­rized. They are, in oth­er words, the unex­changable basis of exchange. By tak­ing the agency of nation­al bor­ders into account, the infra­struc­tur­al chal­lenges of migra­tion become evi­dent and can be visu­al­ized while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly high­light­ing the chal­lenges of ana­lyz­ing migra­tion in the con­text of infra­struc­ture stud­ies. Two con­cepts helped us struc­ture the pat­terns of migra­to­ry move­ment via infra­struc­tures: connection/disconnection and dig­i­tal care work.

Con­nect­ing and Dis­con­nect­ing

In acts of migra­tion, bor­ders are the loca­tions where infra­struc­tur­al con­nec­tions come into con­tact with active attempts to dis­con­nect, while enforced disconnection—the need for migrants to stay beyond the reg­is­tra­tion apparatus—is con­front­ed by the neces­si­ty of con­nec­tion, such as stay­ing in con­tact with oth­er migrants and fam­i­lies and friends back home or at the des­ti­na­tion. Con­nec­tion implies the use of GPS, social media, or mes­sag­ing appli­ca­tions and thus a reen­try into a sys­tem where one is iden­ti­fied and observed. Cross­ing bor­ders, a migrant reg­u­lar­ly switch­es between these two modes—disconnection and connection—that quick­ly become tan­gi­ble states of being once a bor­der is encoun­tered (Bar­ney). Bor­ders con­sist not only of walls and fences, offi­cers and vehi­cles, weapons and visions, roads and traf­fic con­trol but also of devices for dig­i­tal reg­is­tra­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, track­ing, and tracing—all rely­ing upon data-cen­tres, pro­to­cols and micro-deci­sions (on the sta­tus of bor­ders, see Rum­ford; John­son et al., and on the term micro-deci­sions, see Sprenger). The bor­der is a place con­struct­ed around notions of stan­dards, norms, and pro­to­cols and the gate­keep­ers who enforce these. At a bor­der, indi­vid­u­als are iden­ti­fied and sort­ed, pass­ing through a vari­ety of sys­tems that deter­mine one’s worth, one’s pol­i­tics, and one’s valid­i­ty (Wal­ters). Data are obtained, bag­gage secured, vehi­cles scanned. Those who arrive at bor­ders, in this sense, are forced to lay bare the clouds under which they trav­el. Bor­der con­trol is an inter­ven­tion mag­ni­fy­ing the scale of all that pass­es before it, mas­ter­ing points of entry and exit, arrival and depar­ture, or inter­minable sta­sis. As the Sto­ryMap shows in selec­tive detail, every per­son or object being dis­sem­i­nat­ed into a new ter­ri­to­ry must have spe­cial prop­er­ties or attrib­ut­es depend­ing on the infra­struc­tures of dis­tri­b­u­tion. As polit­i­cal-eco­nom­ic domains, such assem­blages, in oth­er words, con­nect and dis­con­nect indi­vid­u­als, both will­ing­ly and unwill­ing­ly. Cross­ing a bor­der ille­gal­ly cir­cum­vents this appa­ra­tus of sort­ing and mea­sure­ment, suc­cess­ful­ly appro­pri­at­ing infra­struc­tures of mobil­i­ty and employ­ing the tac­tics of con­nec­tion and dis­con­nec­tion.

Con­nec­tion and dis­con­nec­tion may be nec­es­sary pre­con­di­tions of today’s migra­to­ry move­ments. The infra­struc­tur­al chal­lenges of migra­tion are, indeed, chal­lenges of con­nect­ing and dis­con­nect­ing at the right time and at the right place. In this sense, migra­tion is deeply embed­ded in the tech­ni­cal infra­struc­tures that deter­mine and enable move­ments from one place to anoth­er, across bor­ders and over vast dis­tances; this study focus­es on the case of migra­tions from Niger to North­ern Europe. The infra­struc­tures that are employed by migrants fol­low­ing this path are not neu­tral, rather they are inscribed with a biopol­i­tics – they pro­vide for the dis­tri­b­u­tion of peo­ple and things in space (Wal­ters; Bigo; Heine­mann and Weiß).

Dig­i­tal Care Work

Move­ment, in the con­text of the Sto­ryMap, is not restrict­ed to human trans­porta­tion, but nec­es­sar­i­ly includes the move­ment of infor­ma­tion and objects as well as their obfus­ca­tion. Every migrant moves with data and objects that migrants try to main­tain as invis­i­ble and thus untrace­able, ren­der­ing them­selves untrace­able as well. Cross-bor­der mobil­i­ty there­fore nec­es­sar­i­ly implies dig­i­tal care work in the facil­i­ta­tion of dis/connection strate­gies. Care work is defined most often as intrin­si­cal­ly moti­vat­ed and involves con­nect­ing to oth­er peo­ple and help­ing peo­ple to meet their needs (Fol­bre). Tak­ing into account the impor­tance of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies can expand the con­cept of care work more broad­ly. As data shad­ows becomes increas­ing­ly impor­tant to our lives (Leonel­li et al.), work involv­ing the care for these data shad­ows can be defined as dig­i­tal care work. It enables con­nec­tion as well as dis­con­nec­tion and edu­ca­tion about the infra­struc­tures of dis/connection.

Exam­ples of dig­i­tal care work include the pro­vi­sion of free Wifi hotspots in tran­sit coun­tries to and through Europe, strate­gic con­nec­tions with oth­er peo­ple while en route or with smug­glers via smart­phones and social-media chan­nels, pub­li­ciz­ing GPS coor­di­nates while at sea, or sup­ply­ing trans­la­tion devices and respec­tive appli­ca­tions to allow com­mu­ni­ca­tion among migrants. Each care tac­tic requires a con­nec­tion to human-tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­tures; a con­cern for one’s own data shad­ow (Lyon; Hag­ger­ty and Eric­son) com­pels strate­gies of dis­con­nec­tion, such as remain­ing out­side the bounds of the EURODAC[1] data­base as long as pos­si­ble on the way to a coun­try of des­ti­na­tion in Europe or beyond the reach of infor­ma­tion gath­ered and used by Fron­tex, the Euro­pean Bor­der and Coast Guard Agency (Kas­parek)[2]. These exam­ples show a care for the dig­i­tal self and the mate­r­i­al-vir­tu­al inter­de­pen­den­cies that make up cross-bor­der mobil­i­ty today. To make the infra­struc­ture of dig­i­tal care work vis­i­ble, the Sto­ryMap shows the dif­fer­ent reg­is­ters of care work along the voy­age from Niger to North­ern Europe.

Migrants, Cables, and Free Wifi Hotspots: Mapping Contexts

Legal con­cep­tu­al­iza­tions of migra­tion, mobil­i­ty, and the bor­der have large­ly ignored their mate­r­i­al-vir­tu­al dimen­sions. Infor­ma­tion sys­tems and bor­der-con­trol tech­nolo­gies have exter­nal­ized the Euro­pean Union (EU) bor­der far into Sub-Saha­ran Africa, inter­nal­ly into the Schen­gen Area,[3] and have even inscribed the bor­der into the migrant body via bio­met­rics (Amoore; Van der Ploeg; Broed­ers; Hess and Kas­parek; Forschungs­gruppe). Bor­ders are no longer mere ter­ri­to­r­i­al mark­ers, but instead have become gate­ways into dif­fer­ent lev­els of mea­sure­ment and sort­ing. Migra­tion as such is often relat­ed to or even trig­gered by the “pow­er of the vir­tu­al,” that is, pre­emp­tive war­fare and the use of drones in con­flict areas or algo­rith­mic risk-mod­el­ing that equates third-coun­try nation­als to poten­tial ter­ror­ists, thus pro­duc­ing the visa restric­tions that force peo­ple to walk to Europe (Guild). The con­stant nego­ti­a­tion between con­nec­tion and dis­con­nec­tion dur­ing the process of migra­tion can also be seen through the spe­cif­ic routes peo­ple take to avoid being cap­tured in the EURODAC (Euro­pean Dacty­loscopy) sys­tem or detect­ed by sur­veil­lance drones.

Our Sto­ryMap explores how migra­tion from sub-Saha­ran Africa to North­ern Europe is imag­ined and often visu­al­ized as the move­ment of human bod­ies along dif­fer­ent ter­ri­to­ries and final­ly across the geo­graph­i­cal­ly locat­able line of the EU exter­nal bor­der.[4] We exam­ine these inter­re­la­tions by focus­ing on the frame­work of mobil­i­ty that can be traced and ana­lyzed with­in a migrant route from Niger to Ger­many. By exam­in­ing the respec­tive local infrastructure—drone bases in Niger, the war in Libya, free Wifi options in Europe, fibre optic net­works, “refugee hot spots,” deten­tion cen­ters, and sur­veil­lance and infor­ma­tion sys­tems on the way to Germany—we demon­strate how delo­cal­ized net­works and invis­i­ble data flows can have very spe­cif­ic (local­iz­able and vis­i­ble) effects on migra­tion, mobil­i­ty, and bor­der prac­tices and vice ver­sa.

Through high­light­ing the infra­struc­tures of a pos­si­ble migrant route from Niger to Ger­many, it becomes appar­ent that polit­i­cal issues, con­flict, or eco­nom­ic fac­tors are not the only ele­ments at play in the emer­gence of migrant escape routes. Increas­ing­ly, drone wars (Chamay­ou) and their effects on civil­ian pop­u­la­tions play a sig­nif­i­cant role in cre­at­ing the orig­i­nal impe­tus for migra­tion to Europe. The mate­ri­al­ized pres­ence of impli­cat­ed inter­na­tion­al actors can be seen in the instal­la­tion of drone bases, drone activ­i­ty, and drone strikes in many coun­tries, such as Niger and Libya [see Drone Base et al. in map]. The pro­ceed­ings of the drone war in many African coun­tries are also inevitably linked to the devel­op­ment of drone pro­grams in Europe, which, among oth­er fac­tors, are con­sid­ered vital mea­sures to restrict migrant move­ment at its south­ern bor­ders or to detect and aid peo­ple in dis­tress at the Mediter­ranean Sea [see Mediter­ranean Drone Projects in map]. This sit­u­a­tion cre­ates a loop between drone oper­a­tions that gen­er­ates migra­tion from Sub-Saha­ran Africa to the EU, which coun­ters with drone pro­grams aimed at repelling cross-bor­der mobil­i­ty from the south.

The pres­ence of drones in these areas cre­ates respec­tive infra­struc­tures and net­works of data exchange. Delo­cal­ized net­works and invis­i­ble data flows facil­i­tate the exter­nal­iza­tion of Europe’s bor­ders into Africa while enabling a deter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion of the vir­tu­al aspects of war into Europe. Drone-tar­get­ing oper­a­tions in Africa or sig­nals intel­li­gence used in drone tar­get­ing is direct­ed, processed, and ana­lyzed with­in Euro­pean coun­tries. The com­mand and con­trol cen­ters of the drone war and oth­er AFRICOM[5] oper­a­tions in coun­tries such as Libya are phys­i­cal­ly locat­ed on mil­i­tary bases in Ger­many and may use intel­li­gence gained from tapped under­sea cables (Angwin et al.), from migrants inter­ro­gat­ed by intel­li­gence agen­cies or from drone sur­veil­lance flights through cen­tral and North Africa, includ­ing Libya or Mali.

One of the cen­tral infra­struc­tures of these deter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tions are sub­ma­rine cables [see Sub­ma­rine Cables in map]. Today, sub­ma­rine cables trans­port most inter­na­tion­al phone calls and inter­net traf­fic and have been of inter­est to intel­li­gence agen­cies for years (Starosiel­s­ki). They are a cen­tral infra­struc­ture of every­day com­mu­ni­ca­tion but also play a role in the drone war. Some of them are being tapped by the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency (NSA) or the Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Head­quar­ters (GCHQ) for sur­veil­lance,[6] while oth­ers are used in drone oper­a­tions, may be key tools for the inter-agency data exchange in anti-traf­fick­ing and bor­der-con­trol oper­a­tions, or may be the route EURODAC input takes from Libya to Europe.[7]

EURODAC, the Visa Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem (VIS),[8] and the Schen­gen Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem I+II (SIS)[9] are infor­ma­tion sys­tems of the EU and asso­ci­at­ed Schen­gen States that sup­port police coop­er­a­tion and enforce migra­tion poli­cies, such as the Dublin Reg­u­la­tion or visa restric­tions [see e.g. Bor­der Con­trol in Europe in map]. These data­bas­es demon­strate how bor­ders are vis­i­ble for some and invis­i­ble for oth­ers (Bal­ibar). Visa require­ments, for exam­ple, cre­ate divi­sions between “trust­ed trav­el­ers” and “risky peo­ple,” where­by the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry is gen­er­at­ed in ref­er­ence to the coun­try of the visa appli­cant (M’charek et al.). The tra­di­tion­al sites of tran­sit, like air­ports and har­bors, thus become high­ly mon­i­tored spaces restrict­ing mobil­i­ty (Andreas and Sny­der). For cit­i­zens of Niger, for instance, visa restric­tions may lead to the cre­ation of alter­nate routes to Europe by foot, bus, boat, or rub­ber dinghies.

These infor­ma­tion sys­tems are also the back­bone infra­struc­ture for the con­trol and asser­tion of pol­i­cy reg­u­la­tions con­cern­ing migra­tion with­in the Schen­gen Area. They pro­vide the data­bas­es and deliv­er the sort­ing sys­tems for ver­i­fi­ca­tion and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (Adey), there­by pre­vent­ing visa or pass­port fraud and “shop­ping” for asy­lum, and facil­i­tate the detec­tion of ille­gal­ized migrants, such as “visa-over­stay­ers” and peo­ple break­ing res­i­den­cy laws. Head­quar­tered in Tallinn, Esto­nia, the Euro­pean Agency for the oper­a­tional man­age­ment of large-scale IT Sys­tems in the area of free­dom, secu­ri­ty, and jus­tice (eu-Lisa)[10] is respon­si­ble for the oper­a­tional man­age­ment of all of these sys­tems.

The geo­graph­ic sites cap­tured in var­i­ous data­bas­es or through sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties are often the same spaces where police and bor­der secu­ri­ty roam, but also where food, assis­tance, and shel­ter may be pro­vid­ed. Refugee camps, deten­tion cen­ters, hot spots, as well as Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Migra­tion (IOM)[11] tran­sit cen­ters (see IOM Niger; Tag­ging Refugees at Camps and Deten­tion Cen­ters in map) are among the infra­struc­tures that restrict, reg­u­late, and aid migra­tion flows. Inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions and refugee agen­cies play a vital part in assist­ing migra­tion, but can also become a form of “remote con­trol” (Guiraudon and Lahav), as they become hubs where infor­ma­tion is exchanged that again feeds the cycles of risk analy­sis by author­i­ties such as the Euro­pean Bor­der and Coast Guard Agency (Fron­tex).

From the time they leave their home com­mu­ni­ty, migrants con­stant­ly nego­ti­ate com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy and infra­struc­ture. While some may be forced to aban­don their mobile phones before cross­ing waters, oth­ers go to great lengths to doc­u­ment their jour­neys.[12] [13] As explored in the Sto­ryMap, refugees often have their bio­met­ric data processed in cen­tral Africa long before they arrive on Europe’s shores. Like­wise, mobile phones are com­mon­ly tied to the iden­ti­ty of their users, enabling the track­ing of indi­vid­u­als while they com­mu­ni­cate.

Care Culture

Under­stand­ing the irony that data shad­ows of migrants will trav­el faster than they do, pos­si­bly through the same infra­struc­ture used in the drone wars, we believe it is impor­tant to doc­u­ment the pre­ex­ist­ing infra­struc­ture that can facil­i­tate online com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Europe has a long tra­di­tion of hack­er spaces and mak­er spaces, phys­i­cal and social loca­tions where indi­vid­u­als come togeth­er to embrace the free­dom to cre­ate and exper­i­ment with tech­nol­o­gy and to pro­vide com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools to their local com­mu­ni­ties. Our map iden­ti­fies a num­ber of these spaces, pro­vid­ing a the­o­ret­i­cal guide from coastal cities of Italy that often serve as migrant tran­sit points, mov­ing through Italy to com­mon stag­ing points for cross­ing the bor­ders fur­ther north. We then trace a route through Aus­tria and Ger­many, even­tu­al­ly arriv­ing in Berlin.

Tech­nol­o­gy is involved in the struc­tur­ing and polic­ing of the bor­ders of this jour­ney, as well as pro­vid­ing impor­tant tools for cross­ing them and enabling the act of migra­tion. Smart­phones with GPS con­nec­tiv­i­ty, dig­i­tal maps, or com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools to exchange infor­ma­tion regard­ing open cor­ri­dors and bor­der polic­ing are key fea­tures of transna­tion­al mobil­i­ty today. In addi­tion to high­ly impor­tant local infra­struc­tures that pro­vide food, hous­ing, eco­nom­ic sup­port, part-time employ­ment, or trans­porta­tion, oth­er facil­i­ties such as elec­tri­cal out­lets, free WiFi hotspots, SIM cards, and trans­la­tion appli­ca­tions offer vital com­po­nents to peo­ple on the move. Dig­i­tal care work can include the main­te­nance of free anony­mous access to dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools: mul­ti­lin­gual web­sites, free WiFi hotspots that do not require login via social-media accounts, options for charg­ing devices, or hous­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties with­out reg­is­ter­ing online with one’s legal sta­tus (see e.g. FreeFor­Refugee Wifi in map). This form of care is self-evi­dent for migrants as well as activists and peo­ple in the traf­fick­ing indus­try and has cre­at­ed respec­tive sol­i­dar­i­ty and eco­nom­ic net­works. Fur­ther­more, migrants are very much aware of their own data shad­ows. For instance, infor­ma­tion on where fin­ger­print scans are fed into EURODAC in dif­fer­ent parts of Europe is wide­ly shared, allow­ing migrants to alter their routes to avoid doc­u­men­ta­tion (Tsianos 121; Tsianos and Kuster 183). Care for the dig­i­tal self is a sig­nif­i­cant part of migrant strug­gles and sup­port­ing net­works should pay atten­tion to its main­te­nance.

A Final Note on Terminology

A gen­er­al con­cern with infra­struc­tures can­not mar­gin­al­ize the terms and legal cat­e­gories that reg­u­late migra­tion and great­ly affect peo­ple cross­ing bor­ders. Due to legal cat­e­go­riza­tions and respec­tive terms, cor­re­spond­ing tech­ni­cal facil­i­ties are installed to pro­duce divi­sions between forms of migra­tion that cre­ate the mate­r­i­al effects of the terms intro­duced on paper (see Euro­dac in map), which, in turn, influ­ences lan­guage use. Lan­guage must be con­sid­ered as infra­struc­ture too. “Legal migra­tion,” “ille­gal migra­tion,” and “refugeeism” are three main dif­fer­en­ti­a­tions with­in the field of human mobil­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly in rela­tion to the order­ing prin­ci­ple of so-called migra­tion man­age­ment (Rat­fisch). In much schol­ar­ly work, it is there­fore com­mon to speak of “refugees and migrants” to acknowl­edge dif­fer­ent sta­tus­es. This dis­tinc­tion, how­ev­er, leads to an iter­a­tion of terms intro­duced top-down, deliv­er­ing a tem­plate for dis­crim­i­na­to­ry rep­re­sen­ta­tions in which migrants appear as “vil­lains” and refugees as “vic­tims.” Fur­ther, this ter­mi­nol­o­gy denies refugeeism from being a mat­ter of choice and migrants the right to escape/flee, and affects self-per­cep­tions and the prac­ti­cal real­i­ties of cross-bor­der mobil­i­ty. For instance, eco­nom­ic migrants may become refugees with­in a coun­try along their migra­tion route. A way to mir­ror these dif­fi­cul­ties in ter­mi­nol­o­gy is to use the term “refugee migrant” (Hess et al.), as it shows the con­nec­tion between these cat­e­go­riza­tions while leav­ing space for ambiva­lence. The Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary defines a migrant as “a per­son who moves from one place to anoth­er in order to find work or bet­ter liv­ing con­di­tions”; in the accom­pa­ny­ing map, all cat­e­go­riza­tions have been sub­sumed under the term migra­tion in order to high­light any migrant path from one place to anoth­er and to strength­en migra­tion as a term of strug­gle. Many of the infra­struc­tures described so far are deeply embed­ded in migra­tion man­age­ment through a struc­ture of legal cat­e­go­riza­tions. Our goal here has been to pro­vide an analy­sis of process­es of migra­tion as well as to repli­cate the migrant strate­gies of dis/connection with rela­tion to exist­ing terms that reg­u­late migra­tion. Infra­struc­tures, as seen above, have the capac­i­ty to mod­u­late. A care for the dig­i­tal self and the dig­i­tal oth­er means acknowl­edg­ing the ways tech­ni­cal infra­struc­tures are linked to fur­ther frame­works that cre­ate and tra­verse the bound­aries and bor­ders that affect mobile sub­jects. The Sto­ryMap ren­ders vis­i­ble the con­nec­tions and exchanges in infra­struc­tures of mobil­i­ty while also tak­ing the inter­stices into account in which cross-bor­der mobil­i­ty might not be read­i­ly leg­i­ble or from which migrants strate­gi­cal­ly with­draw­al or dis­con­nect to make mobil­i­ty hap­pen.

This arti­cle and map are the prod­ucts of a work­shop enti­tled “Drone War, Care Cul­ture and Mass Mobil­i­ty” which was orga­nized in Octo­ber 2016 in Berlin, as part of the Berlin­er Gazette annu­al con­fer­ence Tac­it Futures.[14] Work­shop par­tic­i­pants were drawn from a broad array of back­grounds and includ­ed jour­nal­ists, activists, cura­tors, inter­na­tion­al NGO work­ers, and aca­d­e­m­ic researchers. Work­ing togeth­er over the course of two days, we built a Sto­ryMap[15] trac­ing the jour­ney of migrants from cen­tral Africa to Europe via the Mediter­ranean route, pay­ing close atten­tion to the flows of data and the use of com­mu­ni­ca­tion infra­struc­ture along the way.  

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Notes

[1] EURODAC has exist­ed since 2003. The fin­ger­prints of every asy­lum seek­er in the Euro­pean Union are trans­mit­ted to EURODAC. https://​ec​.europa​.eu/​h​o​m​e​-​a​f​f​a​i​r​s​/​w​h​a​t​-​w​e​-​d​o​/​p​o​l​i​c​i​e​s​/​a​s​y​l​u​m​/​i​d​e​n​t​i​f​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​-​o​f​-​a​p​p​l​i​c​a​n​t​s​_en. For a detailed analy­sis of Euro­dac until 2014, see http://​www​.state​watch​.org/​a​n​a​l​y​s​e​s​/​n​o​-​2​3​5​-​e​u​r​o​d​a​c​.​pdf. The research lead­ing to these results has received fund­ing from the Euro­pean Research Coun­cil under the Euro­pean Union's Sev­enth Frame­work Pro­gramme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agree­ment n° 312454.

[2] Fron­tex. http://​fron​tex​.europa​.eu/

[3] The bor­der-free Schen­gen Area denotes the exter­nal bor­ders of the Euro­pean Bor­der and per­mits for free and unre­strict­ed move­ment between mem­ber states. https://​ec​.europa​.eu/​h​o​m​e​-​a​f​f​a​i​r​s​/​w​h​a​t​-​w​e​-​d​o​/​p​o​l​i​c​i​e​s​/​b​o​r​d​e​r​s​-​a​n​d​-​v​i​s​a​s​/​s​c​h​e​n​g​e​n​_en

[4] On dif­fer­ent con­cepts of the bor­der see New­man; Park­er and Vaugh­an-Williams; Bram­bil­la. Con­cern­ing the rela­tion­ship between move­ment of bod­ies and data see Amoore; Van der Ploeg.

[5] AFRICOM. Unit­ed States Africa Com­mand. http://​www​.africom​.mil/

[6] Snow­den Dig­i­tal Sur­veil­lance Archive. https://​snow​denar​chive​.cjfe​.org/​g​r​e​e​n​s​t​o​n​e​/​c​g​i​-​b​i​n​/​l​i​b​r​a​r​y​.​c​g​i​?​e​=​q​-​0​0​1​0​0​-​0​0​-​-​-​o​f​f​-​0​s​n​o​w​d​e​n​1​-​-​0​0​-​2​-​-​-​-​0​-​1​0​-​0​-​-​-​0​-​-​-​0​d​i​r​e​c​t​-​1​0​-​-​-​-​4​-​-​-​-​-​-​-​0​-​1​l​-​-​1​0​-​e​n​-​5​0​-​-​-​5​0​-​a​b​o​u​t​-​-​-​0​1​-​3​-​1​-​0​0​-​0​0​-​-​4​-​-​0​-​-​0​-​0​-​0​1​-​1​0​-​0​u​t​f​Z​z​-​8​-​0​0​&​a​m​p​;​a​=​q​&​r​=​1​&​h​s​=​1​&​k​=​0​&​s​=​0​&​f​q​a​=​0​&​f​q​v​=​u​n​d​e​r​s​e​a​+​c​a​b​l​e​s​,​,​,​&​f​q​f​=​T​E​,​T​T​,​D​E​,​S​U​&​f​q​k​=​&​f​q​s​=​&​f​q​c​=​a​n​d​,​a​n​d​,​a​n​d​&​f​qaf=

[7] More research and greater gov­ern­ment trans­paren­cy is need­ed in these areas.

[8] http://​ec​.europa​.eu/​h​o​m​e​-​a​f​f​a​i​r​s​/​w​h​a​t​-​w​e​-​d​o​/​p​o​l​i​c​i​e​s​/​b​o​r​d​e​r​s​-​a​n​d​-​v​i​s​a​s​/​v​i​s​a​-​i​n​f​o​r​m​a​t​i​o​n​-​s​y​s​t​e​m​_en

[9] http://​ec​.europa​.eu/​h​o​m​e​-​a​f​f​a​i​r​s​/​w​h​a​t​-​w​e​-​d​o​/​p​o​l​i​c​i​e​s​/​b​o​r​d​e​r​s​-​a​n​d​-​v​i​s​a​s​/​s​c​h​e​n​g​e​n​-​i​n​f​o​r​m​a​t​i​o​n​-​s​y​s​t​e​m​_en

[10] Eu-Lisa. http://​www​.eulisa​.europa​.eu/​P​a​g​e​s​/​d​e​f​a​u​l​t​.​a​spx

[11] Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Migra­tion. http://​www​.iom​.int/

[12] Traces of Move­ment. Tac­it Futures, Berlin. 27-29 Octo­ber 2016. Hamed’s Jour­ney. http://​berlin​ergazette​.de/​t​r​a​c​e​s​-​o​f​-​m​o​v​e​m​e​n​t​/​?​p​a​g​e​_​i​d=2

[13] Van Houtryve, Tomas. “Europe’s Migrant Trail, Through The Insta­grams of Refugees. Fol­low­ing the ‘dig­i­tal bread­crumbs’ left by refugees on social media’. The New York­er. 27 Jan. 2017, 2017.http://www.newyorker.com/culture/portfolio/following-europes-migrant-trail-through-the-instagrams-of-refugees

[14] http://​berlin​ergazette​.de/​t​a​c​i​t​-​f​u​t​u​r​es/

[15] http://​sto​rymap​.knight​lab​.com/


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