June 6 2016

I'll be at ICA in Fukuoka, presenting (1) a piece in collaboration with Harsh Taneja (Mizzou) and Stephanie Edgerly (Northwestern), which compares millennials and boomers' engagements with online news using passively metered behavioral data. This work foregrounds the role of news infrastructures in shaping usage; (2) the piece on "Internet geographies", which is now already out in JCMC.

I will also be a panelist at the Roundtable "The Power of Digital Research," organized by Christian Sandvig and Eszter Hargittai (Abstract see below). Other panelists are Homero Gil de Zuniga, Jean Burgess, and Aniko Hannak. The panel is inspired by Digital Research Confidential, a newly published collection of first-person accounts of new research methods, topics, and problems in the realm of the digital. (On the link you'll get free access to the wonderful opening chapter by Eszter and Christian). Welcome to join us!

Advances in research methods involving digital media, computation, big data, and the Internet recently promised to upend the study of human communication. Are powerful digital methods transforming the capabilities of research about human communication, or is this a new mythology? This session convenes a diverse group of expert practitioners at the leading edge of digital media research who will assess the state of this potential transformation in an interactive, roundtable discussion format.

May 26 2016

One of my current larger projects uses passively metered behavioral data to investigate people's engagements with the online environment (with Harsh Taneja as long-term collaborator). A sub-project examines how news consumption is embedded in people's online lives, with a focus on the US scene. It is generously funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the University of Missouri. We just did our first blog post for RJI, which outlines our research questions and approaches. Access the blog post "A ‘big data’ analysis of news consumption in online lives in America and beyond."

March 6 2016

Our article, "Reimagining Internet Geographies: A User-Centric Ethnological Mapping of the World Wide Web," just came out (Open Access) in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. About our research findings, we have been invited by The Conversation to contribute a short essay for broader audiences--"Reimagining the Internet as a mosaic of regional cultures."

The Internet is becoming more decentralized, or to be more precise, de-Westernizing, as more users from disparate cultures are taking over its topography by bringing in their own cultural identities.

November 5 2015

I have a new article (co-first authored with Harsh Taneja), entitled "Reimagining Internet Geographies: A User-Centric Ethnological Mapping of the World Wide Web" that is forthcoming in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. In this piece, we argue for and demonstrate the utility of a usage-based perspective to represent the Internet, which, unlike the conventional perspectives, better accounts for the expanding presence of the global South on the WWW. Access a preprint version here.

My essay, "Historicizing Internet use in China and the problem of the user figure," is also forthcoming in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. Access a preprint version here. Please note that author's preprint version differs slightly from the final publication.

April 11 2015

Some great news. My article examining the impact of China's Great Firewall in light of global web use patterns (co-first authored with Harsh Taneja) has just received this year's ICA Outstanding Article Award. Here is the news release by CUHK.

January 20 2015

I will attend the AAS annual conference in Chicago in late March and then the ICA annual conference in San Juan in May.

October 5 2014

"Does the Great Firewall really isolate the Chinese? Integrating access blockage with cultural factors to explain web user behavior," a joint paper I wrote with Harsh Taneja examining Chinese web use in the presence of the country's comprehensive online filtering system is out in The Information Society. Access the journal version and the preprint version (may differ from final publication). Here is a discussion of this research in The Washington Post.

August 18 2014

The first journal publication after I joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong is out via OnlineFirst in Media, Culture & Society. The title is "The shared pasts of solitary readers in China: connecting web use and changing political understanding through reading histories."

Another article, "Ideological polarization over a China-as-superpower mindset: An exploratory charting of belief systems among Chinese Internet users, 2008-2011," just came out in the International Journal of Communication.

June 27 2014

Our poster "What balkanizes the Internet? Access denied or access unwanted" won the Best Poster at ACM Web Science 2014!

My co-author Harsh Taneja will also present another collaborative piece emerging out of the same large project at this year's IAMCR in Hyderabad, India, July 15-19. The title of this second study is "The rise of the global South on the World Wide Web: A historical analysis of usage patterns". We'd love feedback from various scholarly communities.

June 12 2014

Starting August 2014, I will be an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I recently defended my dissertation for a Ph.D. from the Media, Technology and Society program in Northwestern University’s School of Communication.

My collaborators and I will present a study entitled "What balkanizes the Internet? Access denied or access unwanted" at the ACM WebScience convention at Indiana University, Bloomington, June 23-26.

March 12 2014

My analyses of the responses gathered by the Chinese Political Compass (中国政治坐标系测试) over a four-year span will be published soon in the International Journal of Communication. The article is entitled "Ideological polarization over a China-as-superpower mindset: An exploratory charting of belief systems among Chinese Internet users, 2008-2011" (preprint copy). Abstract:

This study explores ideological polarization among Chinese Internet users by examining both the structure of local belief systems, and temporal changes of opinions. It implements research tools investigating voters’ cognition and behavior in democratic societies, including those concerning Internet use and political polarization. To probe this sensitive terrain, it employs network and relational class analysis to a unique historical dataset—online records of the “Chinese Political Compass” self-assessment (2008-2011). Results demonstrate that the overarching ideological division of the Chinese Internet is split between nationalism and cultural liberalism. Groups of “ideologues” and “agnostics” that differentially contributed to overall rapid polarization were also identified. The study further speculates how, in nondemocratic societies, Internet use may influence people’s political views through different mechanisms.

February 18 2014

The piece I co-authored with Harsh Taneja examining the connection between the Great Firewall of China and people's web use pattern has been accepted for publication in The Information Society. The title is "Does the Great Firewall really isolate the Chinese? Integrating access blockage with cultural factors to explain web user behavior." Abstract:

The dominant understanding of Internet censorship posits that blocking access to foreign-based websites creates isolated communities of Internet users. We question this discourse for its assumption that if given access people would use all websites. We develop a conceptual framework that integrates access blockage with social structures to explain web users’ choices, and argue that users visit websites they find culturally proximate and access blockage matters only when such sites are blocked. We examine the case of China, where online blockage is notoriously comprehensive, and compare Chinese web usage patterns with those elsewhere. Analyzing audience traffic among the 1000 most visited websites, we find that websites cluster according to language and geography. Chinese websites constitute one cluster, which resembles other such geo-linguistic clusters in terms of both its composition and degree of isolation. Our sociological investigation reveals a greater role of cultural proximity than access blockage in explaining online behaviors.

Look here for a preprint version of the full paper.

January 14 2014

My piece, titled "The shared pasts of solitary readers in China: Connecting web use and changing political understanding through reading histories," has been accepted by Media, Culture & Society. Here is the abstract:

This paper complicates our understanding of the cultural and political impact of the internet in non-liberal societies by foregrounding people’s socially constituted reading practices across print and cyberspace. It places internet use in the context of both social and personal reading histories, as well as in the evolving cultural field across media. I examine the reading practices of 26 Chinese individuals, who developed alternative political understandings through their internet use. Their alternative views, I found, emerged not just through their engagement with the web but as a result of a longer history. Their distinct web use patterns have roots in their pre-internet reading practices. A specific reading disposition for “self-development” may have led to their continuing divergence to niche reading materials as the domestic cultural field diversified. This reading disposition, I argue, prepares people to later engage with the internet in ways that facilitate changes in their political understandings.

December 18 2013

Building on our preliminary study focusing on China's Great Firewall, our upcoming project examines the relation between access blockage and online user behavior with more width and depth. We are working on this project with the Internet Policy Observatory at the Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS), University of Pennsylvania and thank them for their generous support. To learn more about this project, check out the blog post Harsh Taneja and I did for the CGCS website.

November 15 2013

I am the recipient of Dr. D. Ray Heisey Graduate Student Scholarship 2013-2014. This scholarship is offered by the Association for Chinese Communication Studies, an affiliate to the National Communication Association (NCA).

June 20 2013

Some more good news: my first collaborative project (with Harsh Taneja), "Does Censorship or Culture Explain the Isolated Chinese Internet: Analyzing Global Online Audience Flows," won the Graduate Student Paper Competition at the 11th Annual Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC11), this year hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute. An earlier version of this paper received a Markham Top Student Paper Award (second ranked) from the International Communication Division, AEJMC. This study was also reported on by the Washington Post.

June 12 2013

I am a recipient of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange.

May 29 2013

I will present some findings from my dissertation, "Everyday Media Practices and Political Subject-Formation among China's Early Web Surfers," at "Appropriating the Internet: Alternative histories," a Preconference Workshop of AoIR 14.0. Here is the gist of the Workshop, nicely put together by Gerard Goggin and Mark McLelland (Asia-Pacific Internet Histories):

While the internet is now in its fifth decade, the understanding and formulation of its histories outside of a Euro-American framework is very much in its infancy. In this workshop, which arises from a large Australian Research Council discovery grant on Asia-Pacific Internet Histories, speakers explore some of the problems, questions, assumptions, methods, biases, narratives, metaphors and logics that underlie the research into the diverse histories of Internet appropriation and resistance. See the Appropriating the Internet page for details.

My paper is based on the analysis of oral histories collected for my dissertation project.

April 30 2013

I have been awarded the Pre-dissertation Grant for Research in China, from The Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies. Very excited to be a member of this group of emerging scholars pursuing interesting and diverse projects.

August 30 2012

"Hail the Independent Thinker: The Emergence of Public Debate Culture on the Chinese Internet" has been published in IJoC, Volume 6. Here is the link (free access).

August 16 2012

My piece "Hail the Independent Thinker: The Emergence of Public Debate Culture on the Chinese Internet" just got accepted by the International Journal of Communication. Here is the abstract:

Investigating the Internet's political consequences in China, current scholarship focuses predominantly on some individuals' ready contention against state apparatuses, and unjustifiably ignores how Internet use may bring about cultural changes with political implications among a larger population. This study examines the emerging Chinese online debate culture from the early 2006 to mid-2011. Taking the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse, it is based on online ethnography and discourse analysis. It presents a trajectory of the "independent thinking" centered normative discourses on debate in Chinese cyberspace, and how varied social actors interacted with these discourses. The findings suggest that the indigenous public debate culture arisen from Internet communication in China entailed certain behavioral and attitudinal changes supportive of democratic governing.

April 13 2012

My article "Broadening the Scope of Cultural Preferences: Movie Talk and Chinese Pirate Film Consumption from the Mid-1980s to 2005" was published in the International Journal of Communication , Vol. 6 (2012), pp. 501-29. Abstract:

How do structural market conditions affect people's media consumption over time? This article examines the evolution of Chinese pirate film consumption from the mid-1980s to 2005 as a structurational process, highlights its different mechanisms (as compared to those of legitimate cultural markets), and teases out an unconventional path to broadening the scope of societal tastes in culture. The research reveals that, in a structural context consisting of a giant piracy market, lacking advertising or aggregated consumer information, consumers developed "movie talk" from the grassroots. The media environment comprised solely of movie talk guides people's consumption of films toward a heterogeneous choice pattern. The noncentralized, unquantifiable, and performative features of movie talk that may contribute to such an effect are discussed herein.

January 21 2012

My article "Broadening the Scope of Cultural Preferences: Movie Talk and Chinese Pirate Film Consumption from the Mid-1980s to 2005" was accepted for publication in the "Piracy Cultures" Special Section of International Journal of Communication (IJoC). It will be out in print in vol.6 this year.

January 14 2012

My paper entitled "Hail the independent thinker: Online debates, emerging norms, and democratic culture in China" has been accepted at ICA 2012. This paper examines the rise of the online public debate culture attendent to certain patterns of Internet use in China. It discusses the political implications of this phenomenon. I'll be presenting this paper at ICA in Phoenix in late May.

November 21 2011

I presented my paper, "Considering online public debate in authoritarian contexts: The Internet and cultivation of civic competence for democracy," at NCA 2011 (Political Communication Division) in New Orleans. This paper discusses the general literature on Internet use and political change in authoritarian societies and suggests further research to move beyond the framework of a binary opposition between state and society.