The Role of Transnational Digital Communication in Adolescent Immigrants’ Language, Literacy and Identity Development
WanShun Eva Lam

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Northwestern University

Primary Discipline

Literacy and/or English/Language Education
This research study employs multiple methods to explore new forms of literacies and identities that are fostered in transnational digital communication. Specifically, it examines how adolescents of immigrant backgrounds and diverse national origins use the Internet to organize diasporic social relationships, access information and media sources, and develop linguistic skills and cognitive orientations that encompass multiple societal systems. The study is designed to investigate both broad patterns of transnational communication through surveys and focus group interviews, and specific processes of language and literacy acquisition through longitudinal case studies. The NAEd/Spencer fellowship will be used to support longitudinal documentation of how participation in transnational digital contexts affects the development of a sample of 15 immigrant high-school students in their use of language and literacy, ethnic identification, and global and cross-cultural awareness.Data sources include bi-weekly collection of log files of the youths’ online texts and monthly interviews with the youth to discuss their experiences using/learning English and other languages online, social relationships with their online interlocutors, digital networks and literacy practices, and awareness of diverse cultures and world events. Inductive thematic analysis of the youths’ interview narratives will be triangulated with content analysis of the cumulative record of electronic texts to identify changes in the youths’ language/literacy performance, and with discourse analysis to examine how particular textual and interactional features in the youths’ electronic exchanges are used to signify their ethnic and cross-cultural identification. The research has implications for understanding global contexts of learning and immigrant adaptation.
About WanShun Eva Lam

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