Xinyuan Wang

Xinyuan Wang

Latest China (South) blog post

From Facebook to ‘fakebook’ – who controls the information on social media?

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 17:24:23 +0000

Mark Zuckerberg finally said that Facebook plans to have a more effective control of misinformation, which is a sharp reversal in tone from the comment he made immediately after the US election that the “the idea that fake news on Facebook…influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” The fake news that circulated […]


China (South) field site

China South Street view

Chinese rural migrant workers are a special social group born in China's social transformation during the market-oriented economic reform and 'opening-up' policy three decades ago, which required labour mobility within the country. Since the 1980s, a large amount of surplus labor as the result of agricultural de-collectivisation swarmed into the cities to look for employment, a phenomena which has significantly contributed to the country's economic development. Rural-to-urban migration also took place as a natural phenomenon in other developing countries during the industrialisation and urbanisation process. In most other countries, as peasants enter the cities, their social identities change. However in China, because of the strict hukou (household registration) policy, peasants are still identified as peasants even though they take the job of workers, meaning they can not enjoy the same welfare benefits other workers have in cities. To distinguish them from regular workers, these peasants are called 'nongmin gong' which literarily means 'peasant workers' with smells of more or less discrimination.

My field site is a newly-developed factory town within the economic area of greater Shanghai. Currently, the official statistics shows that among 62,000 residents, there are 40,000 migrants, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the total population. The town is a wizardly mixture of the most traditional rural place and industrial plants which manifests itself as a polluted village besieged by functional modern buildings. In a way, the town, per se, like the rural migrant people, is looking for a new identity as 'urbanite' during the process of urbanisation.

From early observation I noticed that there was intense use of Chinese social media such as QQ and WeChat amongst rural migrant parents and smartphones were very popular. Based on a comprehensive understanding of the local sociality, this research will focus on the usage of social media by rural migrant people and original residents, as well as the way people integrated social media into their everyday life, and to what extent social media helps in people’s lives. In terms of more theoretical interests, I intend to investigate social media in relation to the development of personhood, ans social network among migrant people in the context of the social transformation of Chinese society. 

European Research CouncilEuropean UnionUCL Department of Anthropology

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