State Borders and Migration in Digital Times

3rd Summer School of the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION, Frankfurt (Oder), August 17 – 29, 2020

The Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION invites post-graduate and advanced students with a research interest in the digital dimension of the state border-migration nexus to the 2020 summer school. This year’s topic is “State Borders and Migration in Digital Times”.

Research interest of the summer school

The management and control of migration as well as the protection of state borders against irregular migration are increasingly supported by digital infrastructures. These new forms of coordination and control instruments partially replace and relocate traditional forms of state border practices linked to geo-political spaces. In contrast, migrants apply digital devices in order to pass state borders, to build up transnational networks, and to stay in contact with family and acquaintances living at a distance. Starting with this interrelationship concerning the digital dimension of migration, in this summer school we want to generate a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the relevance and use of digital technologies in multilevel processes which reshape the notion and location of the border itself and the way in which migration is dealt with.

Topical foci of the program

The summer school draws attention to the digital aspects of border surveillance and crossing, migration management and migrant agency. The summer school scrutinizes specific concepts like border regime, digital borders, autonomy of migration and digital infrastructures. Therefore, a set of interrelated topics and questions are emphasized:

  • Surveillance and enforcement technologies: Which technologies are applied? How do material and digital technologies relate? How is digital infrastructure operating?
  • Categorization and clustering methods: Which operative categories are introduced and how are they implemented? How are bordering practices and boundary drawings re-shaped by this categorization work? How is migration affected and transformed and what kind of categorial personhood and citizenship is created by it?
  • Exchange of data among common citizens involved in migrant networks: How are new cross-border networks established?
  • Use of digital tools and technology by a variety of actors in an entangled perspective: How do state agencies’ use digital tools and databases in the collaboration with neighbouring countries for the purpose of migration management and control? How do special agencies like FRONTEX apply digital tools and databases? How do actors engaged in search and rescue sea operations and the support of migrants utilize digital technologies?
  • Application of digital technology in counter hegemonic practices: Do digital tools change border crossing practices? How do migrants utilize digital technologies as a tool that enables border crossings? Do digital tools enhance the autonomy of migration?

Ethical dimension of the use of digital technology for border control and border crossing: What are the ethical implications of digitalized migration control with regard to compliance with human rights? Who benefits and who is disadvantaged by digitalized migration control? How do digital technologies impact the priority of highly esteemed values like security, freedom and privacy? Do digital technologies imply a potential to enable more freedom of movement?

The combination of these topics and underlying questions highlights the interdependency of issues usually considered to be discontiguous. Furthermore, the topics and questions encourage to reflect on the possibility that digitalization may contribute to less harmful border arrangements.

About the program

The summer school´s program contains a combination of various formats which facilitate acquisition and consolidation of knowledge and skills. Renowned scientists from the fields of border, migration and digital studies will delve into the core aspects within their lectures. A continuous tutorial provides space to read selected publications and to discuss with researchers of the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION. During the summer school, participants will acquire basic experience in the practical application of a digital publication tool (MAHARA). Participants will be taught how to design and produce contributions in audio or video format and how to place opinion and information pieces in the world wide net via MAHARA. In addition, all participants are invited to introduce their own research projects or ideas within speed presentations. In the course of the summer school, visits of the Berlin Wall Memorial and the German-Polish border are envisaged.

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