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Taking stock, moving forward: the Internet, social networks and civic engagement in Chinese societies

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The Internet in China reflects many contradictions and complexities of the society in which it is embedded. Despite the growing significance of digital media and technologies, research on their contingent, nonlinear, and sometimes paradoxical impact on Chinese citizens' civic engagement remains theoretically underdeveloped and empirically understudied. As importantly, many studies on the Internet implications in the Chinese societies have centered on China. This essay introduces seven articles that draw on a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to advance a balanced and context-rich understanding of the implications of digital media and technologies in China, Taiwan, and the global Chinese diaspora. It further discusses venues for future research, especially studies that take into account the evolving Chinese media landscape and the rise of the mobile Internet, civic and political participation across multiple platforms and their interactions, as well as organizational and interpersonal networks as the state and an emerging civil society inform, empower, and engage one another via digital media.
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Keywords: China; Chinese diaspora; ICTs; Taiwan; Weibo; civic engagement; digital media; social media; the Internet; transnational practices

Document Type: Introduction

Affiliations: Department of Radio-TV-Film, University of Texas Austin, Austin, TX, 78712, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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