UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Caring for newcomer communities and their data : an inquiry into interdependence in information practices Shankar, Saguna


Nation states increasingly manage peoples’ movements across borders using data analytics, automated systems, and algorithmic technologies. Once individuals begin living in a new country, governments continue to collect, analyze, and share data about their immigration and settlement process. In Canada, newcomers are often asked for data about their personal experiences and identity in order to receive access to services from community-based organizations and government agencies. Experimental uses of data can have harmful effects because of mistakes, misrepresentations, and misunderstandings which can jeopardize fundamental human rights and international responsibilities to care for migrants. Informed by previous work on the harms of datafication, this inquiry focuses on questions of care. In particular, what are current information practices and alternative visions of how newcomers’ data should be cared for ethically? The research reported here aims to learn from a diversity of groups’ ethical perspectives and experiences of stewarding immigration data as they seek to respect newcomers’ capabilities and wellbeing. Methods involved 14 semi-structured interviews with individuals in groups supporting immigration and settlement, for which conversations were hosted over 10 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviewees include settlement service providers, migrant justice activists, immigration researchers, government staff, and designers of digital systems and services oriented towards newcomers. The dissertation examines participants’ stories of “data care” and recurring themes which characterize their labour. Interviewees provide accounts of conflict, confusion, compromise, and, at times, coordination with their peers in similar and different groups. Groups linked by their labour with data are therefore understood as interdependent, because their information practices influence one another and newcomers. Findings can be employed by governmental and non-governmental actors to identify links and tensions in their labour with newcomer communities’ data. Contributions offer points of discussion and decision making for organizing the stewardship of communities’ data in support of activities such as advocacy for migrant justice, immigration research, policymaking, service provision, and the design of information technologies. The inquiry conceptualizes groups supporting newcomers as part of an interconnected web, who by understanding one another’s ethical perspectives and practices may coordinate and strengthen their acts of care.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International