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Digital Leisure Divide and the Forcibly Displaced

A Sentence for the Subtitle for this Project

Team Leaders: Payal Arora, Amanda Alencar

Research on forcibly displaced populations and their digital cultures have dominantly focused on utility-driven ends, primarily tied to goals of assimilation, social tracking, economic betterment and other aid agencies specific agendas and outcomes. This approach negates much of their digital life, that which —based on anecdotal evidence from UNHCR, is consumed by leisure and play— popular media entertainment, gaming, romancing, and social networking, much like typical online users worldwide. This restrictive lens may lead to insufficient, and even directly contribute to misleading data on, or narratives about, these communities, which is often instrumentalized by aid agencies in their pursuit for equitable and meaningful connectivity for these targeted populations.

For communities globally, leisure has proven to be fundamental to social and mental well-being as it allows for unstructured time and thought, an essential gateway into self and community actualization. The focus on leisure also captures the nuances of everyday life, creating better opportunities to understand the spatial and socio-cultural aspects of people’s media practices.

The Netherlands

01/07/2021 to 31/12/2021

Digital leisure, forced displaced, refugees, technology, participatory filmmaking.

Outcomes of this Project

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Research Article

Digital Leisure and Aspirational Work among Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Women in Brazil.

Jaramillo-Dent, D., Camargo, J., Arora, P., Alencar, A., Warnes, J., & Pérez, E. (2023).

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Magazine Article

Breaking the cycle of ignorance: Prioritising refugees’ digital leisure and entertainment.

Medium.  (2021)

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Field Research Report

The Digital Leisure Divide and the Forcibly Displaced. Part 2: Field research report.

Arora,  P., Alencar, A., & Jaramillo-Dent, D. (2023).


Magazine Article

Entertainment for well-being: Why leisure will shape the future of digital in humanitarianism.

Medium. (2023).

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UNHCR Anual Report

The Digital Leisure Divide and the Forcibly Displaced.

Arora,  P., Alencar, A., & Jaramillo-Dent, D. (2022).

Key Insights


Digital leisure is key for self-actualization and a crucial motivation for people to adopt new technologies and applications. Digital leisure helps refugees cope with challenges related to displacement and integration and explore potential livelihood opportunities.Digital entertainment activities are also opportunities for learning and sharing languages, skills and exploring personal interests for refugee communities.


It is necessary for organizations working with refugees to situate digital leisure spaces and activities as central to their community-building initiatives. Aid agencies and government bodies need to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of digital leisure spaces as more than sources of information.


Humanitarian agencies should provide more freedom and open connectivity for refugees to experiment with digital leisure more freely and openly achieve development goals. Aid agencies need to shift from their current role as digital content creators to enablers, mediators and nurturers by providing easy access to digital connectivity, and legitimating narrative creativity among refugee communities.

Meet the team

Image by Jamie Street

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