Tricia Wang
Tricia Wang

Young Chinese use social media to develop a new public sphere, away from the old concepts of family ties and Guanxi, argues sociologist Tricia Wang in her Phd. On February 18 she will talk about this subject at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard University.

From the invite:

When we read about the Chinese internet in the Western press, we usually hear stories about censorship, political repression, and instability. But there’s a lot more to be learned about life on the other side of “The Great Firewall.”

Based on over 10 years of ethnographic research, Tricia Wang’s fieldwork reveals that social media is creating spaces in China that are shifting norms and behaviors in unexpected ways. Most surprisingly, Chinese youth are sharing information and socializing with strangers. She argues that they are finding ways to semi-anonymously connect to each other and establish a web of casual trust that extends beyond particularistic guanxi ties and authoritarian institutions.

Chinese youth are discovering their social world and seeking emotional connection—not political change. Tricia argues that this reflects a new form of sociality among Chinese youth: an Elastic Self. Evidence of this new self is unfolding in three ways: from self-restraint to self-expression, from comradeship to friendship, and from a “moral me” to a “moral we.” This new sociality is lying the groundwork for a public sphere to emerge from ties primarily based on friendship and interactions founded on a causal web of public trust. The changes Tricia has documented have potentially transformative power for Chinese society as a whole because they are radically altering the way that people perceive and engage with each other.

You can rsvp for the meeting at 18 February at 12:30pm ET, or follow the proceedings online. Please follow the link for the details at the Berkman site.

Tricia Wang is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers´request form.

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