Departmental Seminar

Between Perseverance and Manipulation: the Art of Accumulation on Social Media in Rural China

Asia/Hong_KongBetween Perseverance and Manipulation: the Art of Accumulation on Social Media in Rural China
    Asia/Hong_KongBetween Perseverance and Manipulation: the Art of Accumulation on Social Media in Rural China
      Overview

      Title:

      Between Perseverance and Manipulation: the Art of Accumulation on Social Media in Rural China

      Speaker:

      Dr. Tom McDonald (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong)

      Date:

      September 9, 2015

      Time:

      4:00 pm

      Venue:

      Room 201, 2/F, May Hall, The University of Hong Kong (Map)

      Language:

      English

      Enquiry:

      (Tel) (852) 3917-5901
      (Email) ihss@hku.hk

      Abstract

      China is often regarded as being a society of hierarchies, whether those be spatial, religious, social, cosmological or familial. This paper, based on 15 months ethnography conducted in a rural Chinese town, examines how hierarchies become overtly expressed on China’s most popular social media platform — QQ — in the form of level status conferred upon users. The paper outlines the complex bureaucracy behind the level system, before turning to discuss the changing attitude of rural Chinese townsfolk towards these levels, showing how desires to accumulate them influence their practices of internet use in everyday life. The paper draws a parallel between level accumulation on QQ and prior literature on gambling to argue that social media user’s accounts of level accumulation cross between emphasising honest effort and intentional distortion, and in so doing emphasise the practice's self-cultivatory aspect.

      This paper forms part of the Global Social Media Impact Study (www.ucl.ac.uk/global-social-media), an ERC funded, cross-cultural comparative ethnographic study based at UCL Department of Anthropology dedicated to understanding the implications of social networking sites for global humankind and society, and explaining their significance for the future of the social sciences.

      About the Speaker

      Tom McDonald is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong. Prior to this he was a Research Associate at the UCL Department of Anthropology. Between 2009 and 2011, he spent two years in a remote county-town in China’s Yunnan province undertaking the long-term study which formed the ethnography used in his PhD, submitted in 2013. The thesis documented the transformation of hospitality practices from domestic to commercial spaces, and discussed how this transition precipitated a number of social changes in the town. He has recently completed a further 15 months fieldwork in rural north China, examining the impact of social media on everyday life in a small town and its peripheries as part of the Global Social Media Impact Study. His first full length monograph, entitled Social Media in Rural China: Circles and Strangers is due to be published with UCL Press in 2016.

      www.ucl.ac.uk/global-social-media/mcdonald

      Poster