Translating the nation through the sustainable, liveable city: The role of social media intermediaries in immigrant integration in Copenhagen

Blog post by Tatiana Fogelman and Julia Christensen

4 Apr 2022, 1:14 p.m.
Tatiana Fogelman and Julia Christensen



A lot of the sharing of information and interpretation of everyday socio-cultural context that helps migrants navigate cities today unfolds in the digital sphere. But while the Internet today abounds with all kinds of migrant fora, such as social media groups and blogs, there has been little research attention paid to such digital integration intermediaries. So, we set out to examine how two migrant bloggers translate the city to their audience. We focus on bloggers that have been repeatedly listed as ‘most interesting bloggers writing about Copenhagen’ to follow. The bloggers are Western and privileged migrants. In terms of data, we analysed their blog and Instagram posts over three and half years, complemented with insights from semi-structured interviews.

Our main findings are that each of the bloggers produces their own particular translation of everyday Copenhagen – one that includes at times also critical perspectives on the local culture. However, they all tend to both draw on and amplify the broader political and popular portrayal of Copenhagen as the pinnacle of sustainable and livable urbanism. Moreover, they reinforce for newcomers the expectations of green citizenship, along with their integration into the Danish culture and lifestyle. Different platforms certainly play a different role here. Much blogging has shifted to photography-based and marketing-oriented platforms such as Instagram: This shift serves to dampen the potentials of more nuanced translations to be found in text-focused blog posts.

Such translations matter in two important ways. First, they shape a normative milieu for migrants. Crucially, they are potentially more influential than formal, institutional components of integration industries in the city. We argue that this is so because these migrant bloggers take their readers along as they perform their own personal having “become local” (Buhr, 2018) by showcasing their accumulated urban know-how of urban infrastructure, culture and social life. The readers/viewers can feel seen or validated as individuals going through the same process of learning about a new place, and at the same time be inspired by these bloggers’ having become locals with an audience consuming their experiences.

Second, these translations, especially those elements that are hashtagged, can have a broader impact on cities. For instance, they can certainly increase cities’ reputations as attractive for potential migrants, especially when they resonate with cities’ official promotions as has likely been the case in the last five to ten years in Copenhagen. However, further research is much needed to help build better understanding of the production and consumption of on-line content that serves to translate cities to newcomers. Specifically, more work is required to understand how migrants themselves, and other digital audiences, more broadly engage with the content shared by migrant bloggers, for example material implications in their migration and relocation deliberations.  


Read the accompanying article on Urban Studies OnlineFirst here.



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