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U of M's "Minnesota 2.0" project documents 1.5 and 2nd generation immigrants' use of social media

Project shows how use of social media helps immigrant youth develop their identity

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Minnesota 2.0," a new digital archive created by the University of Minnesota Immigration History Research Center (IHRC), aims to document how 1.5 and 2nd generation Mexican, Somali, and Hmong youth use social networking sites to express their emerging sense of identity and social connection. The archive explores the youth’s connections to Minnesota and the United States, to their parents and communities, to each other and to the homelands from which their families arrived.

“Our research overturns assumptions that social networking sites are time-wasters that distract youth from more meaningful pursuits,” said Yuridia Ramírez, one of the undergraduate student researchers. “Instead, we have found that participating in social networking discussions opens crucial spaces of identity formation.”

Beginning in September 2009, six undergraduates and two graduate students focused on publicly-accessible Facebook fan pages and groups initiated by the three ethnic groups. The researchers wanted to examine how themes such as the following are discussed and debated:

•    Ethnic identity and pride
•    The struggles of living life as an immigrant and refugee
•    Discussions about language as it relates to cultural and ethnic identity
•    Education
•    Gender and sexuality
•    Homeland politics
•    Religion
•    Americanization and assimilation

Given the name of the project as well as the location of the IHRC, the researchers first looked at Facebook groups that were set up within Minnesota. They soon discovered no geographical boundaries were possible given Facebook’s ability to transcend physical borders and given these groups' desire to connect to people around the world.

“Facebook and other types of Web 2.0 constitute a dynamic and wide-ranging platform for immigrant and refugee youth to shape their own identities as well as to connect with other youth—and even some adults—across Minnesota and across the world,” said Donna Gabaccia, professor and IHRC director.

Learn more about Minnesota 2.0 and view the archive at http://z.umn.edu/ihrcmn20.

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