Mapping Digital Diaspora

The Kominas Myspace Friend Distribution

My dissertation was a musical ethnography informed by ethnomusicology, media studies, ethnic studies, and the digital humanities. In this project, I interrogated the sociocultural boundaries and borders of “Asian America,” as re-imagined and reconfigured by the social networks and cultural production of Asian American independent rock musicians in the post-Civil-rights and post-9/11 United States. As soon as I began my field research, I discovered that the notion of “the field” has changed because of the prevalent usage of digital social media among the musicians of my study. The Internet, is no longer just a means of communication between me and my informants. Digital social media make up an important site of social interactions and creative expressions. Not only that, it is the key to social networking and community building for these musicians. Thus I ask: What does the musicians’ “digital diaspora” look like geographically and spatially?

With the help of UVa’s Scholars’ Lab, I designed and deployed 2-step method — webscraping + mapping to visualize the social networks of the musicians in the study. This visualization process has helped me to analyze the social geography of musicians who question their sense of ethnic and national belonging and to situate the ethnographic details of my 24-month field research within a global context.  Above is an example of the geographical distribution of the Myspace friends of The Kominas, a South Asian American punk band. Read more about the project’s design.

Related Publications:

  • Hsu, Wendy. “Digital Ethnography Toward Augmented Empiricism: A New Methodological Framework,” Journal of Digital Humanities, Volume 3, No. 1, 2014 [official link]
  • Hsu, Wendy. “Mapping The Kominas’ Sociomusical Transnation: Punk, Diaspora, and Digital Media,” Asian Journal of Communication, Volume 23, No. 4, 2013, pp. 386-402. DOI: [official link]