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Talking to the BBC about social media in China

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 07:42:33 +0000

Earlier this month, I was very fortunate to be interviewed by the BBC on my research onto the use of technology in China. The article that was published as a result of the interview is a good example of ‘public anthropology’, showing how the discipline’s research can made relevant to a wider audience. This commitment […]

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China (North) field site

Image of street in China (North) fieldsite

In contrast to the South China field site where issues of national migration and factory labour are core concerns, the North China field site happens to particularly well embody more traditional Chinese characteristics, but ones that nonetheless remain foundational to understanding contemporary Chinese society. 

The North Chinese field site is a single township with a population of approximately 30,000 people. The township features a mostly local population where the majority of people prefer to stay in the town and work wherever possible on local farmland, or in the town's shops or factories. As such, this fieldsite offers a particularly promising opportunity to understand how social media is affecting Chinese family life.

The fieldsite also happens to be in an area of particular religious and traditional significance, being strongly associated with Confucianism and Daoism.

Furthermore, the field site has still experienced a number of significant changes in recent years including new road building, stronger links with urban areas, increased external migration, land reclamation and development, changes in family structure, relocation of schooling facilities, government-backed projects to increase tourism to the area and the level of industry, pollution.

It is expected that social networking sites and social media will play a pivotal role in coming to understand how change is affecting Chinese society and culture. There are already early indicators that the uptake of different social networks may be related to individual's geographic mobility in the area. As fieldwork proceeds first-hand data is being collected on the impact these new communication technologies are having on the lives of Chinese people.


European Research CouncilEuropean UnionUCL Department of Anthropology

Grant number: ERC Project 2011-AdG-295486 SocNet
Project title: Social Network Sites and Social Science