Serving the Evolving Communities: Functions of Turkish Diasporic Web Sites in Germany

Article excerpt

The central objective of this research is to shed light on the role of the diasporic web sites in terms of fulfilling various needs and expectations of diasporic communities, in which an evolving hybridity in structure has been revealed in recent years. In this context, it is aimed to investigate the functions of Turkish diasporic websites addressing the German-Turkish community. The study is undertaken by means of a content analysis of the main services provided in the five most popular Turkish web sites in Germany and through complementary semi-structured interviews with the moderators of these sites. The findings reveal that these web sites aim to undertake a unifying mission for the Turkish community in Germany. At the content level, nationalist references to homeland in these web sites are found to be limited. Homeland image is adopted only as an authentic reference or identity, which assures a familiar platform for an audience who in fact want to define themselves as settled members of the German society. Rather than presenting a platform to answer community needs in the context of traditional community communication paradigm, the focus is oriented to the individualistic expectations of the users through interactive tools like event calendars and friend finders. Diverse virtual individualities proposed by interactive technologies on Internet seems to bring out the emergence of a new, syncrenic, hybrid culture among the German-Turkish, which is based on three main axes: Homeland, diaspora and technology culture.

Keywords: Diaspora, internet, migration, identity, Turks, Germany

Especially for the immigrant communities which live outside of the homeland, the ability to organize as a community whereby members share common interests was seen by them as an important issue for being able to cope with the problems deriving from their minority situations. In addition to many other tools used to unite the members of a diasporic community around a distinctive identity, media played a very important role through the history of emigration. In this process, the role of media was strongly related with keeping alive the relationships between the immigrant groups and the homeland in terms of protecting a strictly established ethnic identity. Research has shown that this function of media seems to be more valuable especially for those diasporas which tend to deny integrating the national discourse of the host country such as is the case with the Turkish Diaspora (Cormack, 1998, Frachon and Vargaftig, 1995, Cankaya, Güney, Köksalan; 2007).

Today, thanks to the developments in communication technologies, media use has increasingly become an activity which enables diasporic communities to maintain continuous contact with home. But today the passive reception of the homeland image imposed by the hierarchical structures of traditional broadcast media seems to be transformed into a more 'active, simultaneous process of maintenance and negotiation between the poles of an original home and a newly acquired host culture' (Sinclair and Cunningham, 2000; 15). It can be said that one of the key factors supporting this transformation is the development of Internet technology. Research has shown that one of the most important productions formats involving Internet users in the diaspora are diasporic websites. In this sense this study aims to explore the role of the diasporic web sites which have the purpose of answering the changing needs and expectations of diasporic communities revealing an evolving hybridity in recent years. In this context, it is focused on the investigation of the various functions proposed Turkish diasporic websites addressing the German-Turkish community. The study is realized through a content analysis of the main services provided in the five most popular Turkish web sites in Germany and through complementary semi-structured interviews with the moderators of these sites. The next section presents the theoretical background of the study, followed by the methodology, discussion of the findings and conclusion. …