Seganti, F. R. (2008). Surfing the City via the Web: The Italian Case. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(2), Article 3. Retrieved from https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/4217/3259
Surfing the City via the Web: The Italian Case

Surfing the City via the Web: The Italian Case

Francesca Romana Seganti
Department of Applied Social Sciences,
London Metropolitan University, London, United Kingdom

Abstract

This article focuses on the Web as an alternative to isolation that often grow in the metropolis because of the loss of communication. It presents part of the results from my research on the social role of an immigrant-oriented online community, Italianialondra.com (IAL). My aim was to detect the role played by the Web in facilitating its members’ integration abroad and in reconstructing communitarian spaces (e.g. home) in London. IAL emerged an exemplar solution for the re-territorialization of London-based Italian immigrants because it is physically de-centered and at the same time it solves local integration problems. What differentiates IAL from other diasporic media is that the places it has helped Italians to be in touch with were in London, just beyond the front door. I conclude that, in any case, its establishment, together with the proliferation of social and business activities and discourses it supports, demonstrates that the experience of the new Italian migrants in London is an empowering one, and therefore, a diaspora ‘in the making’, which does not fit an ideal definition of ‘diaspora’, but is now beginning to assume a distinct character.

Key words: online communities, immigrants, metropolis

Introduction

The formation of transnational diasporic online communities has been particularly studied when the Web gathers together immigrants scattered around the world. This article demonstrates that online communities can play a pivotal role also in supporting adaptation and appropriation of physical space by immigrants living in the same city. It also provides an analysis of whether it is appropriate to define as ‘diasporic’ the phenomenon under study. I will expose part of the results from my research that focused on the role of the Italianialondra.com online community (IAL) in facilitating communication between first generation Italian immigrants in London.

The community was created in 2003. When I started conducting the fieldwork (2004), IAL allowed participants to communicate in ways that were both synchronous (via Chat line and Instant Messaging) and asynchronous (via Forum). A section of the Forum is dedicated to advertising flats for rent, jobs and items to sale. In the section ‘Events’ anyone can propose going out for dinner, cinema, theatre, concerts and clubbing, and trips. The homepage of the community advertises Italian restaurants and events in London, such as the performance of Italian plays and films. Frequently, the manager of the community organizes large events, such as summer or Christmas parties, football matches or picnics.

IAL emerges as the online platform to strengthen sociality, culture and business among Italians in London. I analysed identity and online communication patterns developed by a selected group of its members. Drawing on Cultural Studies, the aim was to position Italian migrants according to Brah’s discourse (1996), as distilled in her words: ‘The question is not simply one of who travels but when, why, how and under what circumstances?’ (Brah, 1996, p. 182). Brah’s post-modern conceptualization of ‘diaspora’ has expanded on typologies of diaspora1 by privileging the role of a shared experience and imagination in the development of diasporas, by de-mystifying the myth of the homeland, and by focusing on the discourse of hybridity and 'in-betweenness' (Hall, 1990; Brah, 1996). In the light of these studies, I will analyse new migrants’ use of IAL, which, in turn, as explained further on, emerges as a mirror that reflects ‘what Italians have become’.

Early studies on diasporic online communities

This Section presents an overview of some selected studies on diasporic online communities. These studies were chosen from among those available before conducting the fieldwork (2004), and, inspired the development of the research project, especially the elaboration of some research questions and the selection of the criteria adopted in choosing the sample. I chose to recruit a sample of Italians who potentially matched the profile of the new migrant: first-generation Italian immigrants, educated to degree level and aged between 25 and 40 years old, living outside Italy for reasons such as those of employment or education. This selection was corroborated by the fact that today, because of the Italian economic crisis, very often Italian graduates prefer to travel abroad to make use of their higher educational background rather than remain unemployed in Italy. The studies presented here confirm that the early immigrants-oriented communities were pioneered by elites2, while demonstrating that online communities inaugurate alternative communication flows, as for instance when they give voice to those who are unrepresented in mainstream media.

This is the case of Ethiopian and Kurd online communities, as reported by Georgiou (2002). Georgiou argues that on-line communication for the members of diasporas has characteristics similar to those of other groups – with all the qualities, inequalities and rapid changes that characterise on-line communication overall. Yet, she points out that, apart from such general characteristics of on-line communication, there are specific characteristics that relate to diasporic groups. For instance, diasporic communities – even if diverse and with particularities in different cases – have always relied on networks, which expanded from the immediate locale to the transnational and global. Therefore, web pages and discussion groups emerge as tools to bring friends and families together and to develop networks for political discussions.

Georgiou analyses ‘The New Vision’ – The Independent Refugee News and Information Service –, a website that addresses the Ethiopian refugee community in the UK and the Ethiopian Diaspora. Georgiou found that community users post articles on the activities of the wider community of diasporic subjects in the UK, discuss the long European history of cultural diversity, and promote refugee art projects and other positive representations of migrant and refugee everyday life. This is a way of emphasizing aspects of multiethnic societies not represented in mainstream media and public discourses. The Web again emerges as an alternative to marginalization in many national and transnational (geographical and mediated) spaces in the case of the Kurds on-line. The Kurds online imagine the construction of a nation and express territorial claims for Kurdistan. According to Georgiou, they (re)create and sustain a community, real in its emotional and political consequences. The positive potential of online communication in facilitating transnational communications is confirmed by the case of a group of Greek students based in Boston and Cambridge, who founded the Hellenic Resources Network (HR-Net) in 1995, to link users based outside Greece. Receiving very positive feedback from community users, these students used the HR-Net to offer community services on a national and transnational scale: up-to-date information about Greece and from Greek resources in Greece and abroad, software and technical support and bulletin boards and hosting for many of the Greek American diasporic organisations’ websites. Finally, despite the fact that Georgiou admits the limitations of reciprocity via online communications (often the users are professionals and students; the websites under study are text-based media and the dominant language is English, denying full access to wider audiences; the communications take place in Western contexts), her study demonstrates that:

‘The Internet offers an easy and cheap way for different minorities to gain visibility, voice and surpass the boundaries of space and of dominant cultural ideologies’ (Georgiou, 2002, Online).

Many other studies (Mandaville, 2003, Tsaliki, 2003; Mitra 2005) come to the same conclusion. Mandaville (2003) explored how dispersed Muslims, who often find themselves to be marginalised or extreme minority groups in many Western communities, used Internet to create an online imagined community where they can interact with people like them with shared symbols and language. Aware that Muslims living in the West tend to be more affluent and hence much more easily able to afford access to expensive technologies, Mandaville points out that it is difficult to ignore the potential capacity of diasporic Muslim media for developing new strains of reformist discourse, new ways of understanding what Islam can mean in the global era. Mandaville argues that the true impact of the Muslim public sphere will therefore be felt when this new generation of IT-savvy diasporic Muslims moves into majority, and takes its place within public society (2003, p. 147).

Tsaliki (2003) analysed the usage of IRC conference among Greeks, especially the Katsika channel. By mid-2001, this network accounted on average for 400 ‘inhabitants’ at any one time. Tsaliki found that the most representative group of participants was that of 20-25 year olds, and that they were students, university graduates in paid employment, and professionals, as well as housewives. Their geographic distribution included Greece, Britain, (most British universities), Brussels, Frankfurt, Australia, New Zeeland, Canada, United States, and South Africa. Tsaliki argues:

‘Diasporic people are using CMC technologies to re-create a sense of community through the rediscovery of their own communality by being “citizens of the world”. Through this process, new images of community and nation are emerging through the discursive activity of IRC’ (Tsaliki, 2003, p. 176).

So far, all these scholars demonstrate that new media offer contexts that develop new forms of agency. Also in the case of IAL, the Web emerges as strategic tool in facilitating its members’ integration abroad and in reconstructing communitarian spaces (e.g. home) in London. However, as I explain further on in this article, differences with diasporic groups and how they have used similar technologies also emerged.

Method

Between October-November 2004, I conducted in depth face-to-face interviews with a sample of 20 members of IAL, who were selected according to the criteria outlined in Section 2 (see also Seganti, 2007; 2008).

I decided to use in-depth interviewing as the main method of data collection since I had adopted an interpretative approach (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003). The purpose was to explore and elucidate individual perspectives, producing an in-depth analysis rich in details rather than focusing on incidence or prevalence. The overall aim was to comprehend understandings and motivations of the interviewees.

As a consequence, I did not consider it necessary to recruit a sample closely representative of the ‘population at large’. I opted for an in-depth analysis of a well-defined number of targeted individuals who could be considered a ‘symbolic representation’. It was assumed that individuals who have the same educational background and the same characteristics and experiences allow for detailed investigation of a particular social process in a specific context. I used a non-probabilistic sampling strategy (Ritchie & Lewis, 2003, p. 78).

I conducted interviews in Italian. All the participants answered the same sets of general, open-ended questions based the topic guide.

I analysed data according to hierarchical structure as in Ritchie and Lewis. During the first stage of the analysis (data management) I identified all data relating to identified themes. Then, (descriptive account) I unpacked the content of a particular theme and identified broader, more refined categories by bringing together fragments of ideas or experiences, which can be meaningless when viewed alone, but when linked together allow accurate interpretation. I found links between emerging issues and reflected on why those links existed (explanatory account). By referring back to the literature, I gained information that allowed me to interpret data and develop explanations.

Several study limitations require comment. My study addressed only a distinct part of the Italian population in London and therefore results are limited to a portion of this segment (the sample) that is not representative of the entire last generation of Italians in London. Generalization to the population at large would not be valid. Another limitation is that interpretation is limited to my own perspective that cannot produce a comprehensive knowledge. Finally, due to the mutable nature of the Web, my conclusion must be regarded as provisional.

Italian migrants before digital media communication

Gina (31 years old):‘ (after the holidays) I landed at Heathrow in the evening, I looked at the sky and I thought: finally at home!’

The interviewees arrived in London in the early nineties. As in the quotation above, they said they consider London their ‘home’. London can be considered such in theoretical terms, following Brah’s thinking on diasporic space (1996). Brah defines the difference between home as where one lives and home as where one ‘comes from’ in terms of emotion. She argues that ‘home’ is not only a mythic place of desire in the diasporic imagination, but also ‘the lived experience of locality, its sounds and smells’ (Brah, 1996:192). As Ahmed (1999) discusses, the lived experience of ‘being-at-home’ involves the enveloping of subjects in a space that is not simply outside them. Being-at-home suggests that the subject and space link into each other, inhabit each other, as emerged in most of the interviews. Antonio (31) said:

‘I feel at home here more than everywhere. Yes, I am happy if the Ferrari wins, but I do not feel like I am inside the Italian society any longer…In a sense I am more British than Italian’.

Marinella (34) said: ‘…I am British in the clear and structured way I organize things. Hence, probably when I go in Italy I feel more British than Italian’.

After many years in London, the interviewees adapted to the British customs and behaviour, such as dressing, talking and consuming. Thus, ‘transforming’ their cultural identity. Paraphrasing Ahmed, London has become the ‘second skin’ that the respondents inhabited.

However, it emerged that the organization of social spaces in London was not articulated to make the respondents feel at home, until they discovered IAL. I ascertained that a combination of environmental and social factors led to a progressive loss of contacts between fellow migrants.

The respondents were suffering from the absence of a channel of communication because they were not concentrated in particular inner-city neighbourhoods or suburban districts, but were living in many different parts of London. It emerged that Italians had lost a particular ‘space’ which formed part of everyday life back in Italy: the public square to meet and chat with people. Gianni (35), the manager of the community, clarified:

‘In Italy, everything, no matter if bad or good, moves around the public square. For the Italians, the public square is the pivot. It is the physical centre of towns and cities but also the centre of the community … Here in England, the concept of “walk” and the concept of “public square” do not exist and will never develop, because here “public square” is not linked to sociability. Going to the public square for a walk could have no meaning here, but in Italy it has a social impact. A “walk” breaks rhythms. In Italy, life rhythm is slower than here… A public square, a coffee bar, a place to meet, a real meal rather than a sandwich are breaks that make Italians become “more sociable”’.

The rhythms of London contributed to dispersion - nothing seems permanent in the contemporary urban landscape. However I am not arguing that London has no social spaces to substitute for the public square. The point is that, in London, social space is mapped according to shared meaning and experience - but for others, not for the last generation Italian migrants. I found that the interviewees did not know of any meeting place dedicated to them. Well-known meeting places turned out to be for post-war Italian migrants only. As the manager of the community underlined, the post-war generation of migrants reconstructed localized neighbourhoods, such as the ‘Liguri’ or the ‘Triestini’ associations in London. However, the most recent generation of Italians would never identify or associate with the old migrant wave.

The interviewees consider themselves ‘different’ from working-class post-war migrants, who arrived in England to ‘make ends meet’. These, in the Italian ‘collective imaginary’, are represented as not-having assimilated and suffering from homesickness compensated by the reconstruction of Italian neighbourhoods.

Finally, even though these migrants had encountered the same common problems that all migrants experience, they also deliberately avoided other Italians, not only post-war migrants. This was due to the fact that their attempt was to assimilate into British society. However, roots cannot be forgotten. It was found that most of the interviewees were looking on the Web for a virtual community dedicated to Italians in London before knowing that it existed.

From the absence of communication to the construction of community

Fazal & Tsagarousianou claim that diasporic identities are clearly neither rigid nor predetermined and that, further, they are a composite of the ingredients of everyday life : ‘The stories that we tell ourselves individually and collectively constitute the identities within the crucible of life’ (Fazal & Tsagarousianou, 2002, p. 13).

The inextricable link of the new Italian identity to the everyday life of community members is revealed by the fact that the online realm is a priori produced in order to have an immediate impact on the offline world. The success of the online community lies in the ability of the manager who, being an Italian in London himself, definitely understood the ‘actuality’ of the target audience. His aim was to create something for the new generation. So, IAL was not designed to support an idealisation of the putative ancestral home, nor it is used to foster a return movement (or to obtain information about employment or the economy in Italy). This was key to encourage people to join the community, since the analysis revealed that the interviewees shared a refusal to return to Italy because of the economic situation there.3

A study (Hiller & Franz, 2004) on the Canadian online Diaspora has found that, among the Canadians in the world, the Web is used in order to achieve the opposite aims. Canadians build an online network in order to maintain ties with the homeland because they have the possibility of returning for job reasons. Hiller and Franz (2004, p. 740) emphasize the importance of the ‘backward gaze of the migrant as a powerful element of computer use’ in the experience of migration. The gaze of the Italians under study is, in contrast, focused on the present and the future.

The activities promoted by IAL develop in such dimensions. It is not a case that the contents of the IAL interface refer to contemporary cultural Italian activities, all of which take place in London. In contrast, other Italian Websites appear informative and commemorative by promoting heritage (see the ‘Italian Memories’ page on italiansrus.com) and links to Italian news and politics.

I believe that the respondents’ detachment from Italy is due to the political events that took place in Italy when the respondents were still living there. Italian politics in the 1990s went through an extremely turbulent period. A full exploration of the historical circumstances for this is beyond the scope of this article, but it should be mentioned that, following decades of Christian Democrat rule, corruption had become institutionalized in Italy’s political system, even among the opposition parties such as the Socialists. As Frei (1995), among others, analyses, one example of how corruption flourished can be seen in the way various government contacts were allocated. According to Frei, different political parties were in charge of doling out lucrative works contracts, such as the construction of factories or highways, in different areas of Italy (2000, p.67). This system allowed a party to build up a large base of support in a certain area by offering numerous works contracts in that area in exchange for votes. Over the years this system both locked out legitimate opposition in these areas and held people hostage to the whims of politicians (i.e. ‘Vote for me or you won’t get that works project’).

As a consequence of these circumstances, the Italians under study not only lost confidence in the Italian government, but they also gave up any hope that the Italian situation might change, especially given that, after they had moved to London, the Italian crisis continued. As Hall (1993) would put it: there is no possibility of returning since the ‘home’ to which Italians would return has been transformed; ‘home’ is no longer the same it was once. This confirms that, as Tsagarousianou (2004) points out, typologies of ‘diaspora’ (Safran, 1991), which emphasize the maintenance of strong links and identifications with the ‘homeland’, have limitations. The new migrants’ condition is better understood when we take into consideration, as Hall (1993) and Brah (1996) suggest, that diasporic subjects are the products of many interlocking histories and cultures: they belong simultaneously to several ‘homes’. Moreover, in this specific case the problematic relations with the ‘old home’ tell us what these new migrants no longer are, while revealing that London, in contrast is, as Brah suggests, the site of hope and new beginnings (Brah, 1996, p. 193).

Daniele (33): ‘It took time and effort to integrate here in London. In contrast with other Italians who come and go relying on parental support, I worked very hard. I suffered from loneliness. It took effort but it was worth it.´

Daniele’s words, which represent other respondents’ thoughts, confirm that London is seen as the platform for a new way of living. Furthermore, it is emphasized the effort made to appropriate the space of London and the fact that this process implied, as said, transformation. The design of the website again reflects such condition. I found that the Forum gave the respondents the possibility to interact with people who had already experienced the same difficulties, obtain quick solutions to get out of the difficulties, and therefore learn to ‘inhabit’ the British system faster. However, as opposed to the results of many studies on diasporic online communities (Mitra, Georgiou, Mandaville, and Tsaliki), the interviewees never used IAL to communicate with families and friends in Italy and it emerged that IAL did not have links to other Italian Diaspora Websites in other parts of the world. The desire to create such links did not emerge from the interviews. Not having implemented IAL with tools to enable a transnational network is a way of expressing the transformation Italians underwent: members are proud of having travelled so far from their families to finally find themselves independent and autonomous. They were critical of Italian ‘mammismo’; that is the phenomenon of young (and not-so-young) Italian adults financially reliant on their parents. As well, they were particularly critical of Italian nepotism, which they were proud not to be involved with. Through IAL, members display that they do not share links with other Italians (e.g. Italians in Italy), who had not been through the same experiences as they had. These, in their words, ‘always retire within themselves’ (Dario 34) and do not take the risk of exposing themselves to change (In contrast with other Italians who come and go relying on parental support, I….). In contrast members’ aim is to appear open to dealing with multiculturalism and to challenge or, in other words, to show themselves to be socially integrated into the British (multicultural) society (I feel more British than Italian). This result mirrors the respondents’ rejection of being compared with the post-war migrants. However, the idea is that despite their attempt, the interviewees were not as integrated as they wished. This emerged from their need for a communication space in which to socialize (IAL).

Yet I found that IAL emerges as a strategic resource since it has allowed Italians to act in two parallel dimensions. They found an effective way to band together without the risk of transforming small metropolitan areas into Little Italy. Paradoxically, as I explained in a previous article (Seganti, 2008), their strategy was found to echo that of the Scalabrinian post-war migrants, as found by Fortier (2003). Fortier’s study was carried out at the Italian Centro Scalabrini in South London in 1993. The Centro Scalabrini is part of the Scalabrini congregation, an Italian missionary order founded in 1887 to minister mainly to Italian emigrants and their descendants around the world. Fortier analysed that the Scalabrinians represent themselves through universal symbols (Catholic symbols) in order to become visible in the host country, where they suffered from invisibility. However, they feared that visibility could mark them as a minority ethnic group and thus might attract surveillance. Scalabrinians managed to overcome the ‘condition of foreigner’ by identifying themselves through symbols and representations that did not locate them in a defined place, but in both a local and a global dimension (being Italian and Catholic in a non-Italian, non-Catholic world and being part of the world ‘community’ of Catholic/Christian migrants (Fortier, 2003).

Although in relation to a different context, the Web has also allowed Italians in London to transform the space of London into a place that supports the articulation of a particular set of social relations, but remaining in between visibility and invisibility. The possibility to organize offline events through the Web allows new Italian migrants to always meet in different locations. Not being confined to a local area or place, Italians maintain invisibility, which they have already accomplished through assimilation. At the same time, the social microcosms built via the Web have given Italians the sensation of being ‘visible’ by allowing the reconstruction of Italian habits that they had temporarily forgotten in order to be accepted in the foreign environment.

IAL, the looking glass of a diasporic consciousness ‘in the making’

By supporting the formation of local communities (based in one city), IAL becomes the substitute for the village square that Italians in London were missing. It therefore benefits the lives of Italian migrants especially because the micro communities it supports are decentralized and not confined to one physical meeting place or area recognisable as exclusively Italian. This organization, which reproduces, in the physical sphere, the structure of the Web, seems to be particularly strategic now that the urban landscape has changed so dramatically. Today the idea of a monocentric and homogeneous ‘polis’ is no longer conceivable and the Web emerges as the tool to inhabit ‘dynamic and polycentric spaces’ (Ferrarotti & Fuksas 2006, p. 6). IAL emerges as a ‘comfortable’ space for its members since it is designed to legitimise a ‘new’ feeling of belonging premised on sharing:

-The experience of migration, and the consequent estrangement (Ahmed, 1999);
- Hybridity;
-The ‘ongoing lived experience’ (Safran, in Fazal & Tsagarousianou, 2002);
-A contentious relationship with the home country, which produces a generalised feeling of indifference towards an Italian world, which develops outside the context of London and/or does not have an impact there; .
-The desire to mobilize the positive common experience of the Italian culture (as opposed to the negative political experience) by promoting its tangible components, such as music, cinema, theatre.

Yet, given that consistent differences with other online diasporic networks emerged, it is my attempt to conclude this article by providing a brief analysis, due to space limitation, of whether it is appropriate to define as ‘diasporic’ the phenomenon under study.

Cohen (1997) argues that a dislocated group can be defined as a ‘diaspora’ when it possesses a strong ethnic group consciousness sustained over a long period of time. In emphasising the temporal factor, Cohen offers an important interpretative key. The new migrants under study are still at a stage in which the primary objective of integrating into the host society overshadows the capacity to celebrate their own cultural practices. Their conscious denial of some Italian cultural attitudes does not contribute to the maintenance of an ‘ethnic group consciousnesses as ‘strong’ as Cohen intended. However, ethnic consciousness does re-emerge in the defence of Italians’ shared interests, as when some participants responded to the lack of an Italian school in London by founding one. Two of the interviewees reported (Marinella and Nicoletta) that they were promoting a project of organizing a kindergarten open to Italian families via IAL. I found that the school is expected to open in 2009. Its website (Scuolaitalianalondra.org) states:

‘La Scuola Italiana a Londra4 came to life to fill the absence of educational alternatives to the British system that the Italian community in London feels’.

As they explain, this is the outcome of long work which began in 2004 with the aim of creating a structure responding to all the requirements voiced concerning children's education within the Italian community. The organising committee was supported by Italiansoflondon.com, another Italians in London Website created 2003. I believe that the achievement of such an aim is an indication that the Italian consciousness as a diasporic group is developing, and confirms the important role to be played by new media in such processes.

The launch of a new website dedicated to Italians in London, Italiansunited.com, which is designed in the same style that was initially used for IAL, can be regarded as further confirmation of the results of my analysis. Italiansunited.com not only allows participants to communicate via two chat lines and via a forum, but it also allows users to join groups and to participate in various activities. Although I have not analysed in detail how interaction is performed through the new Italians-oriented website, it is worth noting that it seems in some ways to have offered a substitute for IAL now that its manager had to shut down the chat line. I found (Seganti, 2006) that the respondents used the chat line of IAL to liberate the ‘Italian self’, which cannot be expressed during the working day due to the fact that migrants work in a foreign environment. The fact that the members of Italiansunited.com still feel the need to use a chat line indicates that there are factors in the physical world that are pre-conditions for its existence: in line with the definition of ‘diasporic media’ found in Tsagarousianou (2004), the chat line offers Italians the means not only to ‘be in two places at once’ (by participating in the Italian community in London and by persisting, at the same time, in the attempt to integrate into British society), but also to produce new spaces (from the online space in which discussion starts to the offline space in which participants meet) where participants share their experiences. On the basis of my findings this also appears to be true as far as regards the wider use of IAL.

However, while Tsagarousianou also refers to the synchronization of people connecting from, or to, remote localities; in this case participants live in the same city and contact only fellow-migrants in London with whom they can share the hybrid identity developed after having had the same life experiences.

The need to share and inhabit the space of hybridity also emerges in relation to the school project, as the following quotation from the school’s website shows:

‘We strongly believe that bilingualism and a broader cultural background are fundamental stones in the building of a new generation of citizens who increasingly have to cope with, and adapt to, cultural diversity’ (Scuolaitalianialondra.org).

It emerges that Italians in London are producing ‘something new’, a new generation of hybrid citizens, aware of their origins and therefore able to inhabit British culture without simply assimilating into it (Hall, 1993). The aim of the school, which translates the aim of the new migrants/parents who have promoted it, is to allow its students ‘to move freely back into either the Italian or the British school system at any point during their academic career’ (Scuolaitalianalondra.org). Similarly, the initial purpose of IAL was to allow migrants to move freely back into either the Italian or the British social system. I believe that a continual negotiation of this kind between the culture of origin and the host culture once again demonstrates that a certain self-awareness of the new Italian migration as a ‘diaspora’ is emerging. According to Tsagarousianou (2004:63), this itself is one of the conditions that defines a group as a ‘diaspora’. Tsagarousianou also argues that the processes of self-imagination as a diaspora require diasporic institutions, which construct and sustain a diasporic space of communication and exchange where definitions of the diaspora are elaborated and reproduced (Tsagarousianou, 2004:63). I would suggest that further studies could be conducted to ascertain whether this is the case for the Italian school in London and conclude that, in any case, its establishment, together with the proliferation of social and business activities and discourses, demonstrates that the experience of the new Italian migrants in London is an empowering one (Hall, 1993), and therefore, a diaspora ‘in the making’, which does not fit an ideal definition of ‘diaspora’, but is now beginning to assume a distinct character. It is my intention to analyse the development of this process in the future, when enough time will have passed for it to be possible to ascertain whether the new migrants’ initiatives are sustained over time and in what ways and to what extent these people change.

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(1) Older definitions of ‘diaspora’ focused on migrations forced by religious and ethnic persecution. More recent conceptualisations (Safran, 1991; Tölölyan, 1991, 1996; Cohen, 1997) while differing in detail, identify the main characteristics of ‘diaspora’ as being: ‘A history of dispersal, myths/memories of the homeland, alienation in the host country, desire for eventual return (which can be ambivalent, eschatological or utopian), ongoing support of the homeland, and a collective identity defined by the above relationship’ (Shuval 2000:43).

(2) Nevertheless, an increasing number of studies demonstrate that the demographics of users have shifted towards younger and less technically skilled populations. For instance, Bernal, in her study on the Eritrean diaspora and its use of cyberspace confirms: “Most came to the USA without higher degrees or capital and have had to work hard to support themselves, often while contributing to the support of relatives elsewhere... In a way that curiously parallels the decentralization of the Internet, the economic importance and political significance of Eritreans in diaspora derives from the aggregation of many individuals without raising any one of them to the status of an elite’(Bernal 2006, 165-166).

(3) The new migration trend in London is not forced migration, but neither is it entirely voluntary since migrants were compelled by economic circumstances, including structures of inequality in their home territories, to make journeys and undertake arduous work that they would not have undertaken had they had the possibility of earning the same salaries in Italy as they did in Britain. But they did not have this possibility. Therefore, it can be said that the new migration is an expansion from a homeland in search of work, even if, in contrast with earlier migrants, the new migrants did have alternative means of earning a basic living. If we refer to typologies of ‘diaspora’, the Italian case is in some ways more in line with other forms of migracy than with diasporic phenomena.

(4) For instance: Music, the concert of Carmen Consoli in London; Cinema, the premier of Tacchi a Spillo di Salvatores; Theatre, the Chicago with Luca Barbareschi at the Cambridge Theatre of London; Italian Cabaret, Paolo Mingone in Londo.n (5) The Italian School in London .