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Bringing worldwide social media research to Hong Kong

Next week, my new book Social Media in Rural China will be published by UCL Press, and it is with a sense of excitement that HKU Sociology will be hosting a series of events around the book launch here in Hong Kong.

The results that are presented in these events are based upon the UCL Why We Post project, a global comparative ethnography into the use and consequences of social media around the world. As part of this study, I spent 15 months living in a village in north China examining the impact social media was having on the lives of people who live there.

Man using smartphone in rural China with young boy looking on

Research participants in the field site (Photo: Gillian Bolsover)

My book represents the main findings from my own ethnographic fieldwork, so I feel both excited and nervous when I realise something I have spent almost fours years researching and writing on is about to be shared with the public.

I am especially curious to see how the book is received in Hong Kong. Most of the book was written while I was based at UCL Anthropology in London, and at the time I imagined that the majority of people who read the book would be those based in Europe or America, who might know very little about Chinese social media platforms such as QQ and WeChat.

However, the situation is different in Hong Kong. Although Facebook and Instagram appear to be the most popular platforms, many social media users are also active users of Chinese platforms such as WeChat, given Hong Kong’s proximity and links to mainland China.

I have enjoyed exploring these issues with my own fantastic students in the past year in my course on New Media and Digital Culture, where our Media, Culture and Creative Cities masters students have worked together to examine the implications of different Chinese social media platforms on relationships, society and culture. The publication of this book will mark the next stage in sharing these insights with a larger international audience.

I hope that, if you are in Hong Kong, you will be able to visit the book launch and exhibition. We are also holding a number of talks in mainland China in September… and finally, those elsewhere in the world can join us for our online book launch!