The shared pasts of solitary readers in China

connecting web use and changing political understanding through reading histories

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article complicates our understanding of the cultural and political impact of the internet in non-liberal societies by foregrounding people’s socially constituted reading practices across print and cyberspace. It places internet use in the context of both social and personal reading histories, as well as in the evolving cultural field across media. I examine the reading practices of 26 Chinese individuals, who developed alternative political understandings through their internet use. Their alternative views, I found, emerged not just through their engagement with the web but as a result of a longer history. Their distinct web use patterns have roots in their pre-internet reading practices. A specific reading disposition for ‘self-development’ may have led to their continuing divergence to niche reading materials as the domestic cultural field diversified. This reading disposition, I argue, prepares people to later engage with the internet in ways that facilitate changes in their political understandings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1185
Number of pages18
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Volume36
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 26 2014

Fingerprint

Internet
China
history
disposition
political impact
virtual reality
divergence
society

Keywords

  • books
  • China
  • internet
  • political change
  • politicization
  • prosopography
  • reading history
  • subject-formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

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abstract = "This article complicates our understanding of the cultural and political impact of the internet in non-liberal societies by foregrounding people’s socially constituted reading practices across print and cyberspace. It places internet use in the context of both social and personal reading histories, as well as in the evolving cultural field across media. I examine the reading practices of 26 Chinese individuals, who developed alternative political understandings through their internet use. Their alternative views, I found, emerged not just through their engagement with the web but as a result of a longer history. Their distinct web use patterns have roots in their pre-internet reading practices. A specific reading disposition for ‘self-development’ may have led to their continuing divergence to niche reading materials as the domestic cultural field diversified. This reading disposition, I argue, prepares people to later engage with the internet in ways that facilitate changes in their political understandings.",
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