The Journal of Chinese Sociology, 2023
The Chinese landscape of networked digital technologies is highly dynamic and full of contradictions. On the one hand, China’s vastly developed digital infrastructure combined with a vibrant tech sector offers the material base for an emergent platform economy. Companies like Bytedance and Tencent are asserting dominance on global markets thanks to their technological prowess and business innovations. On the other hand, not only is the social contour of technologies shaped by existing inequalities at multiple levels, the intense mediation of everyday life through digital platforms is also giving rise to new forms of control and exclusion. This complex scenario provides fertile ground for sociological inquiries.
Networked digital technologies are rewriting the future of work. One only need to think about the videogame players who generate income through livestreaming to understand the blurred boundary between work and play. Or to look at DiDi drivers and Meituan delivery riders to recognise the extent to which algorithms have reconfigured the labour process. For vloggers on Douyin, performing gendered emotional labour is part and parcel of the products they sell. For data labellers who annotate audio-visual content for supervised machine learning, their work is no less alienating than that on an assembly line. For software engineers who follow the relentless schedule of 996, the technologies they help improve could often lead to workplace surveillance and societal control. This is why the commonly adopted term ‘digital labour’ can be misleading, as it tends to conflate different types of labour experience and downplay the materiality of digital technologies.
With the ascendance of platform economy, new ways of organising production and consumption are also reshaping social relations. WeChat, for example, has become a ‘super-app’ that supports a wide range of services encompassing many aspects of personal and commercial life. In rural China, more and more people are logging into Kuaishou to sell agricultural products and to promote tourism in the countryside. No longer content with leaving ‘bullet-screen comments’ on Bilibili, fans of popular culture are now taking an increasingly active role in co-producing both pop idols and media content afforded by digital platforms. Amid all these activities, what are some of the new social formations emerging? How are they co-evolving with extant structural conditions? What kind of social imaginaries are being articulated about digital platforms and more broadly about good life?
In this special issue, we invite authors from sociology, media and communication studies, science and technology studies, anthropology, and other related disciplines to contribute empirically grounded research centring around the theme of Digital technology, Platform Economy, and Imaginaries of Good Life. Topics of interest include but not limited to:
new forms of production and social relations in the platform economy‘super-app’ as digital infrastructure of urban life the politics of access and social inequalitydigital platforms and the reconfiguration of time and spacerural e-commerce and digital platformsalgorithmic management of platform labourgendered performance and emotional labourpopular culture and platform mediated fan participationmetaverse and the promise of digital futuredigital use and meaning-making among different social groups (eg. the elderly, children, disabled people, sexual minorities, ethnic minorities, etc.)new discourses and practices surrounding digital technologies and platform economy
Lead Guest Editors
Bingchun Meng (Professor, Department of Media and Communications, LSE)
Linliang Qian (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Southeast University of China)
Submission instructions and timeline
All submissions should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 31, 2022 Abstract (800 words) due
August 31, 2022 Notification of accepted abstracts
February 28, 2023 Full manuscript (8,000 words) due
July 31, 2023 Final revision due
November, 2023 Date of publication