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Expanding civic engagement in China: Super Girl and entertainment-based online community

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This article pursues a context-rich understanding of how digital media offer unique opportunities for citizens residing in mainland China to participate in civic engagement and organize their civic values. While the Chinese state authority keeps a heavy hand in any form of media, old or new, for use of overt political expressions, I provide empirical demonstration of the link between entertainment media experiences and the exchange on more serious civic topics. In doing so, I argue for a more expanded notion of civic engagement for political environments such as China and develop an empirical scheme that incorporates ordinary citizens' interactions with more leisure-oriented media texts. Such theoretical and empirical moves, as I point out, can contribute to a more thoughtful discussion of the Internet and civic engagement in China. Furthermore, this article pays particular attention to how the Internet provides a valuable channel for community formation among ordinary Chinese citizens outside the mainstream media, which are mostly occupied by state elites. My examination suggests that the Internet helps online discussants reach further depth in their extension from entertainment discussion to constructing serious discourses on important social issues, more so than the mainstream newspapers.
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Keywords: China; civic engagement; entertainment; mainstream media; new media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations, Hofstra University, 322C Dempster Hall, 111 Hofstra University, Hempstead, 11549, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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