Building on the results of a qualitative study with 16 male refugees (mostly from Syria) settled in the Netherlands, this article reports on an investigation that applied insights from the Uses and Gratifications (U&G) framework and refugee studies to examine the media use of refugees and to link these to the material, social and psychological needs emerging from the journey. With a focus on the smartphone, our study distinguished four significant clusters of media U&G among the sampling population: smartphone as companion, an organisational hub, a lifeline and diversion. First, the use of smartphones was linked to refugees’ need to contact family, friends and connect with migrant communities. The importance of establishing contact with other refugees and smugglers through smartphones reinforces the agency of these migration networks within mobility processes. The findings also point to refugees’ smartphone usage for getting a sense of security. Finally, this study demonstrated the use of smartphones for preserving memories of the journey through the storage of pictures taken of important moments experienced during the flight. Additional studies should include other methodologies and samples to further validate our theoretical framework and findings.

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Media, Culture & Society
Department of Media and Communication

Paz Aléncar, A., Kondova, K., & Ribbens, W. (2018). The smartphone as a lifeline. Media, Culture & Society, 1–17. doi:10.1177/0163443718813486