#swarm and @DroptheIBot
One of the major national news stories this summer has been the reportedly large numbers of migrants attempting to gain access to the UK via Channel crossings from Calais. Many media outlets continue to use language that suggests that the migrant people at the centre of this story –irrespective of their situation and background – are undeserving of our support, understanding or empathy, moreover that their entry to the UK will have a detrimental effect on everyone else’s lives. This othering of migrants, whether deliberate or otherwise, is not new, nor is it perhaps always limited to the media; David Cameron’s visceral description of “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean” was criticised as dehumanising by stand-up comedians and social media audiences alike.
The CuRAtOR project’s challenge is to generate an understanding of how the deliberate design, and deployment, of digital and social media, and online interactive experiences more broadly, can influence and oppose cultures of fear and result in cultures of empathy that could reduce or eliminate mistrust and negative consequences of Othering. One example of related work appeared this week in which Patrick Hogan and Jorge Rivas built a bot that corrects people who say ‘illegal immigrant’ on Twitter, part of a wider movement in the USA to drop the use of the word “illegal” when discussing migrant people. The bot quickly fell foul of Twitter’s spam rules but the historic tweets that mention the account reveal a really interesting and varied set of reactions from people who the bot tried to correct. It would be interesting to deploy a similar initiative here in the UK.