Users, fans, followers, and friends

Carolina Bandinelli and Alessandro Gandini – The University of Lincoln – Trust in the age of dating apps

Dating apps are allegedly changing the ways in which individuals experience and build forms of mediated intimacy, providing new tools for selecting potential partners. This paper is concerned with the social dynamics bound to the use of dating apps, with a distinctive focus on the mechanisms of trust building among users. Drawing on a broad qualitative research comprising of 2 focus groups and 5 of in-depth interviews involving participants from both heterosexual and non-heterosexual cultures in the UK and Italy, we offer an explorative analysis of the process through which users negotiate with each other and with the apps’ affordances to identify, invent and test new codes and practices for constructing romance. We concentrate on how individuals come to trust 'strangers', providing details on the tactics they employ before, during and after a meeting with an unknown potential partner. In so doing, we want to question how these emerging practices fit in relation to existing sociological definitions of trust, and provoke a reflection on the broader transformation of love cultures in the digital age.

Shiyu Zheng – The University of Warwick – How Chinese fans use social media to transnationally engage in the participatory culture of contemporary British TV drama

Douban, Youku and BiliBili (DYB), three of the most popular Chinese social media technologies, have attracted a great number of Chinese audiences to engage in the participatory culture and promoted not only Chinese media industries but also foreign cultural products such as TV drama to a large extent. These online platforms and social media become accessible and available for fans to adapt scenario, discuss content, share comments, create virtual community, etc. My paper would focus on how Chinese fans use social media to transnationally engage in the participatory culture of contemporary British TV drama. The roles Chinese social media play during the engagement and the transfer of British local products to overseas markets is the key questions to be answered.

Therefore, the paper tries to understand Chinese audiences’ engagement and participation into a British TV product via DYB, which not only benefits the circulation of British culture and media products, but also promotes the transnational and cross-cultural communication between the UK and China. British TV dramas go global and international alongside with cultural communication and media exchange from early 1990s, while the academic analysis is not abundant in this area. Today, due to the prevalence of social media in China, more transnational cultural products could be widely spread and welcomed. My paper will take the most famous British TV drama from BBC: Sherlock as an example and try to find out Chinese fans’ engagement on Sherlock via Chinese social media from a Chinese scholar’s perspective. Different engagement forms from Chinese audiences will be further observed and elaborated. Hopefully, the research achievements would not only benefit the British media/ TV industries, but also promotes Chinese creative cultural industry to facilitate transnational communication and social media understanding/ usage.

Ema Pei-Ying Wang – Columbia University – The Influence of PTT Bulletin Board System on Taiwanese Internet Culture, Mainstream Media and Civic Engagement

While mainstream social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter have been dominating the global online sphere, there is an influential online community in Taiwan that has prevailed for more than 20 years – the terminal-based PTT Bulletin Board System (BBS). Similar to Reddit, PTT is a theme-based online forum that allows participants to interact with one another synchronously. More than 20,000 new posts are generated each day, as participants seek the most updated information regarding their topics of interest or indulge themselves in the entertaining PTT culture. Although the technology behind PTT is outdated – it is not a website – one has to install the specific BBS software to make posts, PTT is able to survive, coexisting with mainstream social media in Taiwan, such as Facebook and Line, and maintaining its influence both online and offline. To understand how PTT has thrived, I examine PTT’s culture, its relationship with the mainstream media, and its influence on Taiwanese civic engagement.

The analysis shows how, due to the strong social bonds and shared identity among the participants (oftentimes built around humor and sarcasm), much like 4chan or Reddit in the U.S., PTT has become the birthplace of new language and online slang that often goes viral on the Taiwanese Internet. Furthermore, unlike mainstream media in Taiwan, which is often biased due to political or commercial interests, the independence of PTT welcomes a wide diversity of voices reflecting participants’ authentic thoughts and, often, counterhegemonic positions. Last but not least, the strong cohesion among PTT participants helps facilitate civic engagement around social justice issues, such as the Sunflower Student Movement, born in response to the government’s move to pass the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement without a transparent process. This research shows how the grassroot digital media has affected the non-Western contexts both online and offline.

Suzan Koseoglu – Goldsmiths, University of London – A Critical Exploration of the Social in #DigPed

In this study, we present and critically analyze findings from a Social Network Analysis (SNA) on the use of hashtag DigPed (#DigPed) on Twitter during Digital Pedagogy Lab 2018. We investigate the community formations, influencers and the most popular threads and hashtags to understand the social structure of #DigPed. Social in this context is a complex notion that includes human and non-human actors (i.e., individual users, bots, institutional and organizational accounts, collaborative projects) with diverse engagement patterns. While doing that, we turn a critical lens into the method of SNA itself, in particular its reliance on quantification and the standardization of social connections.

This study is a follow-up of an earlier exploration of #DigPed, in which we looked at how educational narratives on the network developed and spread. Findings from the first study are further explored in this study using the Capacities and Signals framework. We pay particular attention to power dynamics, the pedagogic capacity of educational narratives, and the meaning of gatekeeping in this context. We further posit that although a public network like #DigPed is technically open to everyone with an Internet access, network literacies and social capital play an important role in how one engages with the network and, as a result, gains from participation.