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Tommy 2017

Dr Tommy H L Tse

Assistant Professor

+852 3917 8532

9.09, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus


Dr. Tommy Tse is an Assistant Professor in Media and Culture at the Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong. He specialises in East Asia’s media and cultural industries, creative labour, consumer culture and sociology of fashion. His work has appeared in Asian Journal of Business Research (MAGScholar), Clothing Cultures (Intellect), Information, Communication and Society (Taylor & Francis), International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education (Taylor & Francis), International Journal of Fashion Studies (Intellect), Journal of Business Anthropology (Copenhagen Business School Open Journals), Journal of Consumer Culture (Sage), Young Consumers (Emerald) and The International Sociological Association E-Symposium (Sage), in addition to his co-authored book Celebrity Culture and the Entertainment Industry in Asia: Use of Celebrity and Its Influence on Society, Culture and Communication (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, 2017[Distribution]).

Previously, Tse worked in various media and creative companies, including Art Map Ltd., ADO and TBWA. Tse also worked as a project-based copywriter for various global fashion, luxury and pharmaceutical brands for over six years. Before joining HKU, Tse taught at the School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University; Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; the Culture and Media Domain, HKU SPACE; and Hong Kong Design Institute.

From 2015 – 2017, Tse was the Director of the faculty’s flagship summer institute Asia as the Global Future: an annual four-week study programme in Hong Kong (HKU), Beijing (Peking University) and Seoul (Korea University) showcasing the Faculty of Social Sciences and HKU as an Asia’s global university, and an ideal platform for international collaboration, academic exchange and social innovation among the global partner universities. In 2015, Tse was the Visiting Scholar at the National Center for Radio and Television Studies, Communication University of China, Beijing, and at the Fashion Institute of Design, Donghua University, Shanghai. In 2018, he is a Visiting Scholar/Research Associate at University College London (Anthropology Department) and London College of Fashion (Social and Cultural Studies).

Research Agenda

Fashion, media, advertising and entertainment sectors, all based on the commercialization of intangible cultural creation and often co-produce symbolic goods, are part of the globally upsurging cultural and creative industries (CCI) and my primary research field. Widely perceived as ‘increasingly significant sources of wealth and employment’ (Hesmondhalgh, 2013: 8), in the year of 2013 CCI generated revenues of 2,250 billion USD and employed 29 million people worldwide (Cultural Times, 2015), contributing to the global GDP at approximately 7% and growing at a rate of 10% per annum (Ideas Centre HK, 2009: 40). Over the past decade, the meteoric rise of Korea’s and China’s creative industries and popular culture has garnered enormous attention in Asia and worldwide, and has become a topic of debate and interest among academics, policymakers, and creative industry participants. My research not only investigates CCI’s economic implications but also their sociocultural dynamics and impact on creative labour process, particularly in three intertwined areas:

  • the asymmetrical flows of global culture derived from and accelerated by the CCI across East Asia;
  • the changing roles of and relationships among multiple cultural mediators in co-creating symbolic values in the digital age; and
  • the ongoing precarization of creative labour markets and its impact on cultural production and creative labourers’ work and social life.

From previous fieldwork, I gained access to the rather enclosed fashion, advertising, media and entertainment sectors in Hong Kong, Mainland China and South Korea. Through participant observation in numerous fashion and luxury e-commerce companies, media and advertising agencies, and exclusive industry conferences and events, I conducted in-depth interviews with over 150 creative industry practitioners of various levels of seniority, including fashion reporters, editors, bloggers, designers, merchandizers, stylists, models, photographers, catwalk show and trade fair organizers; celebrities, celetoids, socialites, key opinion leaders (KOL), celebrity managers, advertisers, publicists, advertising executives, and a wide range of broadcast, print and digital media personnel. As an insider ethnographer, I experienced the intricate inner working of cultural production and also ‘studied up’ among these guarded cultural producers, reflecting on their daily work and social lives through ‘walking their walks, talking their talks’. My ongoing research strives to fill a significant research gap between theory and practice of the academic studies of fashion, celebrity culture and creative industries, which are predominantly EuroAmerican-focussed.

Through my ethnography and qualitative interviews, I illuminated new theoretical paradigms and provided original empirical data to elucidate:

  • how the illusive and conflicting concepts of fashion – as a cultural product – are divergently constructed and consumed across East Asia;
  • how the media and entertainment industries in Hong Kong, mainland China and South Korea emulate the ‘Western’ (primarily North American), Hollywoodized system in producing, monetizing and mystifying celebrity since 1950s till the digital era;
  • why and how the creative labour process evolves amid the economic, political, sociocultural and technological transformations, and how it undermines creative labourers’ agency to resist the ongoing precarization of work; and overall,
  • why the symbolic values derived from various types of profit-oriented cultural production (fashionability, celebrity, brand images, and other creative multimedia contents) do not always empower the Asian states (e.g. China, South Korea) to contest the influx of global cultures, nor consumers (or ‘prosumers’) to construct their preferred social and cultural identities.

Courses taught


PhD Sociology
The University of Hong Kong

MPhil Comparative Literature
The University of Hong Kong

BA Comparative Literature
The University of Hong Kong

Research interests

Advertising and society
Celebrity culture
Creative labour
Cultural and creative industries
Cultural studies
Gender and sexuality
New media and digital culture

Current research

Working in/out the Automated ‘Smart’ Cities: A Comparative Study of Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese Media Professionals’ Psychological Wellbeing. HKU Faculty of Social Sciences Strategic Research Clusters Seed Funding.
Project Date: 01/06/2019 –30/11/2020.

Digital Labour and Wellbeing: A Qualitative Exploration of Digital Workers’ Job Insecurity and Mental Health in Mainland China. University of Leicester Research Development Fund. (PI: Dr. Yimei Zhu [Media, Communication and Sociology, Leicester].
Project Date: 01/03/2019 – 31/12/2019.

‘Cultural/Creative Labour and “Neo-Precarity”: Emerging Challenges and Responses of Precarious Workers in Chinese Cultural and Creative Industries’. HKU Seed Fund for Basic Research. Project Date: 01/09/2018 – 30/11/2018.

‘Food for Thought, Food for Globe – Reduction of Meat Consumption in Hong Kong’s Schools’. Funded by Knowledge Exchange Project Fund (KE-ID-2018/19-80). Project Date: 01/09/2018 – 30/06/2019.

Green a Difference: Reduction of Animal Consumption in Hong Kong.’ Funded by Knowledge Exchange (KE) Impact Project Funding (KE-IP-2017/18-66). Project Date: 03/08/2017 – 30/06/2018.

Size Does Matter: Reflecting Our Attitudes and Knowledge about Non-Human Animals in Urban Hong Kong.’ Funded by Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange (KE) Project Fund (KE-ID-2015/16-20). Project Date: 01/09/2016 – 30/08/2017.

Creative Industries in Flux: A Critical Investigation into the Challenges, Agency and Potential of Cultural and Creative Workers in Hong Kong.‘ Funded by Public Policy Research Funding Scheme (2015.A8.035.16A).
Project Date: 01/07/2016 – 31/12/2017.

Good Work, Bad Life? Demystifying the Glamour of Creative Labor in Advertising Industry.‘ Funded by HKU Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research.
Project Date: 01/06/2016 – 31/05/2017.

Co-creating Fashion in the Post-Industrial Society: A Comparative Analysis of Creative Industries in China and South Korea.‘ Funded by Early Career Scheme (ECS/27610115).
Project Date: 01/09/2015 – 31/08/2017.

Selected publications


Peirson-Smith, A. & Tse, T. [in alphabetical order] (2019, forthcoming), Hong Kong Creative Industries in Flux: A Critical Investigation into the Challenges, Agency and Potential of Creative Workers. United Kingdom; New York: Routledge.

Cheng, K., Leung, V. & Tse, T. [in alphabetical order] (2017), Celebrity Culture and the Entertainment Industry in Asia: Use of Celebrity and Its Influence on Society, Culture and Communication. Bristol, United Kingdom: Intellect; Chicago: University of Chicago Press (Distribution).

Cheung, D., Tang, J. & Tse, T. [in alphabetical order] (2006), Bodywise, English & Chinese, Hong Kong: Kubrick; Taipei/Kaohsiung: Ju liu tu shu gong si, 183 pages. [ISBN 988-992-462-5]

Journal articles:

Tse, T. & Tsang, L.T. (2018). “Reconceptualising prosumption beyond the ‘cultural turn’: Passive fashion prosumption in Korea and China”, Journal of Consumer Culture. (published online first) [ISSN: 1469-5405]

Tse, T., Leung, V., Cheng, K. & Chan, J. (2018). “A clown, a political messiah or a punching bag? Rethinking the performative identity construction of celebrity through social media”, Global Media and China. Vol 3, No.3. 141-157. [ISSN: 2059-4364]

Leung, V., Cheng, K. & Tse, T. (2018), “Insiders’ views: The current practice of using celebrities in marketing communications in Greater China”, Intercultural Communications Studies. Vol 27, No.1. 96-113.. [ISSN: 1057-7769]

Pun, N., Tse, T. & Ng, K. (2017), “Challenging digital capitalism: SACOM’s campaigns against Apple and Foxconn as monopoly capital”, Information, Communication & Society (published online first). [ISSN: 1468-4462]

Tse, T. (2016), “Four myths of fashion—An ethnographic research on the fashion media industry in Hong Kong and Mainland China”, The International Sociological Association E-Symposium (Sage Publication), Vol 6, No.1. 1-16.

Tse, T. (2016), “Consistent inconsistency in fashion magazines: The socialization of fashionability in Hong Kong”, The Journal of Business Anthropology, Vol. 5, No.1. 154-179. [ISSN: 2245-4217]

Chan, K., Tse, T., Tam, D. & Huang, A. (2016). “Perception of healthy and unhealthy food among Chinese adolescents”, Young Consumers. Vol. 17, No.1. 32-45. [ISSN: 1747-3616]

Tse, T. (2015), “An ethnographic study of glocal fashion communication in Hong Kong and Greater China”, International Journal of Fashion Studies, Vol. 2, No.2. 245-266.[ISSN: 2051-7106]

Tse, T. (2015), “Two different tales of fashion media industry development in Mainland China and Hong Kong”, Clothing Cultures (Intellect), Vol. 2, No.3, 257-274.[ISSN: 2050-0742]

Tse, T. (2014), “Fashion media communication in Hong Kong”, International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education (Special Issue: “Fashion and Communication”), Vol. 7, No.2, 66-74. [ISSN:1754-3266]

Tse, T. (2014), “Negotiations between fashion marketers and journalists in Asia”, Asian Journal of Business Research, Vol. 4, No.1. 30-42. [ISSN: 1178-8933]

Book chapters:

Tse, T. & Tsang, L.T. (2017). “From Clicks-and-Bricks to Online-to-Offline: The Evolving E-tail/Retail Space as Immersive Media in Hong Kong and Mainland China”, Retail Design: Theoretical Perspectives, edited by Anthony Kent and Ann Petermans, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Tse, T. (2015), “Beyond Freudian narcissism and the cowboy myth” in Ways of Queering, Ways of Seeing, Edited by Jo Grzelinska & Jill Cox, Oxford, United Kingdom: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 205-224.

Tse, T. & Wright, L.T. (2014), “Luxury brands and deriving fashion meanings in a media context in Hong Kong” in Luxury Brands in Emerging Markets, edited by Glyn Atwal and Douglas Bryson, Palgrave Macmillan, 155-165.

Media interviews:

The First Lady Effect on Fashion: How Their Choices of Outfit can Transform a Label’s Fortunes (SCMP, 22 September 2018)

Collaboration with UN ESBN Youth & Women Entrepreneurship Taskforce (Young Entrepreneurs/HKU Common Core Research and Innovation, 6 August 2018)

Sphere of Influence (TVB Pearl, 30 July 2018)

Makeup app showdown: Meitu versus YouCam (Abacus by SCMP, 9 February 2018)

Celebrity Culture in the Modern Age (HKU Bulletin Vol. 19 No.2, January 2018)

MeToo Has Reached China, but Will It Have an Impact? (The Hollywood Reporter, 8 January, 2018)

From Hong Kong hit Bride Wannabes to the Kardashians and Love Island, what is our fascination with reality TV? (SCMP, 14 October 2017)

Triple Alumnus in a Special Niche – Alumni Interview with Dr Tommy Tse Ho Lun (The HKU Graduate School Newsletter, P.7, August 2017)

Why Start-ups Thrive behind China’s Great Firewall More than in Hong Kong, its Freest City, and How to Change That (SCMP, 19 January 2017)

【腐女想甚麼?】BL漫畫「攻」「受」關係滿足女讀者情慾想像 (HK01, 18 August 2016)

Emoji 尋性新語言?(HK01, 21 July 2016)

Digital Natives in the Wild (China Daily, 22 April 2016):

Living the Stream (SCMP, 14 March 2016):

Melancholic Melody: Cantopop Remains in a Mist (China Daily, 19 October 2015)

Love at First Click (China Daily Asia, 11 September 2015)

The Anti-Intellectual Generation [反智世代] (MetroPop, 23 April 2015)

Newspaper articles:

Tse, T. “香港文創產業一片風光背後”, Hong Kong Economic Journal, 21 November 2015. Print.

Tse, T. “搞「好」創意 談何容易?審視文化及創意產業的業內實況”, Hong Kong Economic Journal, Nov 28.2015. Print.

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