April Salchert deposited The Mobile Phone and a Migrant Story: Digital Representation of a Marginalized Other on MLA Commons 1 week, 2 days ago
These are the slides from my presentation at the MLA Convention 2020.
The mobile phone often plays a critical role in the migrant journey, as it does for Nour, the protagonist in Bury Me, My Love (2017). Designed as a mobile app game, Bury Me, My Love follows the journey of a Syrian migrant. The designers of this digital fiction hope players “empathize and understand what those people go through” (Kidwell 2018). This desire for players to “empathize” with “those people” presents a couple of ethical challenges. First, this work can be perceived as a tool to foster empathy, which risks promoting virtual voyeurism and conflating the experience of playing the game with knowing the Other (Dussault 2017). Secondly, Bury Me, My Love is a literary and aesthetic representation of a marginalized Other, which also poses significant ethical barriers.
I argue that the digital medium of this work, the mobile phone, offers a means to address the ethical issues of representing and attempting to foster empathy for the Other. Based on the work of psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and his concept of transitional phenomena, the mobile phone can be considered a potential transitional object (Ribak 2009; MacRury and Yates 2016). The mobile phone, as a transitional object, supports what I call a “playful space of mind” to encounter the migrant Other while the digital features of the mobile phone enable this digital fiction to disrupt fixed representation of the migrant Other and reveal a means to foster empathy.