Access to online platforms continues to expand. With each new app or tool, user engagement presents challenges and opportunities. Sharing content online has increasingly become an essential aspect of living in the world, whether for personal expression, cultural representation or political activism. At the same time, the new mediated socialities formed on these networks maintain deep connections to place-based experiences and identification.
The internet is often characterized as “placeless”, while the opposite is true. Existing cultures and geographies affect how new technologies are received, adapted, leveraged, or even avoided, as well as to what extent actions on digital platforms may motivate changes in everyday life. The web is often seen as “open”; yet, in practice, it can insulate networks to those most closely known to us and whom we deem to share our values. In order to understand the narratives unfolding there, I take an ethnographic approach to the web which asks, what does social media look like in/from specific places?
Based on fieldwork in a small Catalan border city, this paper explores the role of the internet and social media in urban life. Place-making is a process that inevitably traverses the online and offline. In this process, old and new boundaries and borders between “us” and “them” are installed, protected and/or contested on the web as well as in the streets. Otherness and marginality are key facets of Catalan identity which contribute to local, everyday responses to the digital. Technology is largely assumed to be inherently disruptive to existing ways of life. However, focusing on themes such as Catalan language politics and nationalism, banal activism, and affordances of social media for youth culture, this research argues that there is equal significance in its continuities.