Social Media In Rural China

Social Media In Rural China

By Tom McDonald
Book Description

China’s distinctive social media platforms have gained notable popularity among the nation’s vast number of internet users, but has China’s countryside been ‘left behind’ in this communication revolution?

Tom McDonald spent 15 months living in a small rural Chinese community researching how the residents use social media in their daily lives. His ethnographic findings suggest that, far from being left behind, social media is already deeply integrated into the everyday experience of many rural Chinese people. 

Throughout his ground-breaking study, McDonald argues that social media allows rural people to extend and transform their social relationships by deepening already existing connections with friends known through their school, work or village, while also experimenting with completely new forms of relationships through online interactions with strangers. By juxtaposing these seemingly opposed relations, rural social media users are able to use these technologies to understand, capitalise on and challenge the notions of morality that underlie rural life.

Table of Contents
  • Front-Cover
  • Half Title
  • Series
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Introduction to the series Why We Post
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Note on the text
  • 1 Introduction and field site: Down to the countryside
    • Chapter outline: from circles to strangers
    • Ways of understanding social media in rural China
      • The problem of ‘the Chinese internet’
      • Social media on ‘the Chinese internet’
      • Internet use in rural China
    • Locating Anshan Town
    • Moral frameworks in Anshan Town
      • The town and its people: an outsider’s view
    • Households and families
    • Employment
      • Manual workers: from farms to factories
      • Service jobs: small-​private traders, government and enterprise
      • Travelling educated workers: from the town and from elsewhere
      • Elite: leaders and businesspeople
    • Homes, wealth and possessions
    • Urban connections: mobility and gender
    • Doing field work
    • Conclusion: the ideal life of Anshan Town
  • 2 The social media landscape: Visibility and economy
    • Changing communications and rural informatisation in Anshan Town
    • Anshan Town’s social media platforms: affording visibility
      • QQ
      • WeChat
      • Renren
      • Microblogs (Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo)
      • Momo
      • Non-​Chinese social media
    • Economies of access
      • Smartphones and mobile broadband
      • Home broadband connections
      • Work ​unit broadband
      • Internet café
      • School
    • Conclusion: Choice and constraint
  • 3 Visual postings: Idealising family –​ love, marriage and ‘little treasures’
    • ‘Treasure one ​hundred-​day photographs’: a wealth of variety
      • The desire for a ‘wealthy’ variety of baby photos
      • From print albums to Qzone sharing of baby photos
    • Love and devotion
      • Romantic memes: How teenagers talk about love online
      • Posting about one’s own love: legitimised experience of newly married couples
    • Expressions of thanks to parents (or friends?)
    • ‘Shared’ values
  • 4 Relationships: Circles of friends, encounters with strangers
    • Defining circles
      • A circle of schoolmates
      • Families online: absence of online parent–​child relationships
      • Class groups and QQ groups
      • Changing circles: high-​school, university and work
    • Seeking out strangers
      • Aliases, avatars and anonymity: bridging friends and strangers
      • Messily adding: encountering disorder
      • Romance among students
      • Social media in marriage: the stranger as the ‘third one’
    • Conclusion: Making moral relations
  • 5 Moral accumulation: Collecting credits on social media
    • Gamification is not an explanation
    • Bureaucratic measures: The rules governing level accumulation (or how to get 2.89 days out of 9.5 hours)
      • ‘Online time’: putting in the hours
      • Trading levels for invisibility
      • Paying for privilege
      • Levels on other social media platforms
    • User agency: the manipulation of accumulation
      • Staying logged in
      • Getting the help of friends
      • Multiple accounts
      • Paid membership
    • Accounting for accumulation: level accumulation and morality
      • ‘Growing up’ and level accumulation
      • Understanding accumulation: the hard work of gambling
      • From money to morals: the appeal of cash-​less gambling on QQ
    • Conclusion: entrepreneurship, social media and social transformation
  • 6 Broader relations: The family, the state and social media
    • Cause for control: Protecting nation and family
      • State-​level controls: The Golden Shield
      • Deleted posts and frozen accounts
      • Limiting youth access
    • Appropriate content: propaganda and patriotism
      • Tencent news: national news delivery via social media
    • Patriotic postings
    • Monetised media: business and friendship on social media
      • Social media for promotion
      • Taobao
    • Conclusion: Making social media moral –​ from content to commerce
  • 7 Conclusion: Circles and strangers, media moralities and ‘the Chinese internet’
    • Circles and strangers: individualistic relations
    • Media moralities
    • Understanding ‘the Chinese internet’ and its social media
  • Appendix –​ Methodology
    • Questionnaires
      • Questionnaire A
      • Questionnaire B
      • Questionnaire C
  • Glossary of selected Chinese terms
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
  • Back-Cover
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