Dajiangyou: Media practices of vernacular creativity in postdigital China


Gabriele de Seta

PhD defended at: 

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University



This dissertation presents the account of a qualitative research project about the media practices of vernacular creativity of digital media users in contemporary Mainland China. The research project is based on a review of two decades of multidisciplinary research about the Internet in China, and positions its research questions at the intersection of three disciplinary domains: area studies, media anthropology, and Internet studies. The investigation has been conducted drawing on an ample methodological toolbox of established and experimental qualitative research strategies, including ethnographic participation, digital methods, and curatorial data collection. The principal topics discussed in this dissertation include the everyday experience of networked communication devices in different Chinese cities, the adoption and articulation of digital media platforms by Chinese Internet users, and the practices of linguistic and cultural creativity emerging from the use of these technologies. The main findings of this research project suggest that the Internet is experienced by Chinese users as a complex ensemble of devices, platforms, services, practices and possibilities of access; that the usage of digital media platforms in Mainland China is articulated through personal engagements with these complex media ecologies; and that user-generated content produced and consumed by a large majority of Chinese digital media users is creatively interpreted and negotiated across individual repertoires of semiotic resources. The conclusion of this dissertation theorizes the trivial aspects of everyday communication on digital media as media practices of vernacular creativity, and argues for the need of more ethnographically situated research on the topic in different local contexts.