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Negotiating intimacies in China's online social milieux

This is a cultural study into China’s cyberspace focussing on romantic relationships. The research asks: how does culture influence the ways Chinese Internet users conduct romantic relationships online; and how might these relationships be seen to reproduce, extend and/or challenge the Confucian tradition governing social and familial practices, and the communist party-state’s ideologies? While the first question explores the issue of how culture may shape the ways the Internet is used in China and impact on users’ experiences of online romance, the second question examines how Chinese cultural traditions may in turn be shaped by the Internet. The aims are to understand: (1) how Chinese define and make sense of their online romantic relationships; and (2) the significance of the Internet in influencing the ways Chinese negotiate their intimacies in relation to wider familial relations, the party-state’s paternalism and the social climate of growing individualism in the society. Mixed methods triangulation is used to approach the research questions, beginning with participant observation at three domestic social sites, followed by an online survey and narrative studies. Findings show that the Internet in China is appreciated as a distinct realm on its own as much as an extension of offline everyday life. The original contribution to the digital media literature comes from recognizing the meanings and importance of exclusively Internet-based online romance for participants. These types of relationships encompass the therapeutic ethos of love stressing self-realization but ironically also feature the quintessential elements of romantic love practically used by Chinese to reinvigorate their quotidian existence. Despite deliberately exploiting the dichotomy between online and offline, Chinese Internet users ultimately accept that the two are inextricably linked. This paradox results from the tension confronting Chinese when negotiating their freedom in private love affairs with Confucian tradition and the party-state. The study draws on Giddens’ Structuration Theory and Foucault’s governmentality to account for the power struggle.
Date January 2013
CreatorsChin, Y. L.
PublisherNottingham Trent University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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