Social Media in Rural China

McDonald, Tom. Social media in rural China : social networks and moral frameworks. London : UCL press, 2016. 219 p. (Coll. “Why We Post”). [PDF en libre accès] ISBN: 978-1-910634-69-1.

social_media_in_rural_china_800pxChina’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

Introduction and field site: Down to the countryside | The Social Media Landscape: Visibility and economy | Visual Postings: Idealising family – love, marriage and ‘little treasures’ | Relationships: Circles of friends, encounters with strangers | Moral accumulation: Collecting credits on social media | Broader relations: The family, the state and social media | Conclusion: Circles and Strangers, Media Moralities, and ‘the Chinese Internet’

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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