Qian Huang | Digital Vigilantism in China: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm

Qian Huang | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Media and Communication Department | Dr Daniel Trottier and Prof. dr Susanne Janssen | 1 March 2017 to 1 March 2021 | huang[at]eshcc.eur.nl

Digital Vigilantism in China: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm
Part of the NWO project: Digital Vigilantism: Mapping the terrain and assessing societal impacts

Digital vigilantism is a process where citizens who are facilitated by digital media and technology are collectively offended by other citizens’ activities and use visibility as a weapon to conduct mediated policing and control. In China, DV is featured by the so-called ‘human flesh search engine’ and other forms of citizen-led vigilante activities. Such DV activities reflect the current social and political situation in contemporary China; in turn, DV activities construct the social and political reality in China. This proposed PhD project aims to develop a theoretically nuanced and empirically grounded understanding of DV in China and the interplay between DV and Chinese society. With the situated theoretical framework, first-hand data and analysis, the research will offer a conceptually and empirically grounded understanding of DV practices in China. By answering the research question: “How is digital vigilantism manifest in the contemporary Chinese media landscape?”, the research will be able to provide a clear conceptualization, comprehensive understanding and analysis of digital vigilantism in contemporary China.

Qiong Gong | Social media usage and its impacts on young adults in China

Qiong Gong | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Department of Media and Communication | Promotor: Prof. dr Susanne Janssen and Dr Marc Verboord | Sep 2014– Sep 2018 | gong[at]eshcc.eur.nl

Social media usage and its impacts on young adults in China

My project ‘Social media usage and its impacts on young adults in China’ focus on the effects of social media use on the attitudes of young adults (18-40-year-old) towards politics, arts and culture and health related issues. The focus is on the case of China: a country with a state-controlled media system, in which during the past decades a highly diversified media ecology of social media platforms has emerged. We also compared young adults’ perceived credibility of information about politics, arts and culture, and health related issues on both traditional media and social media. We use original data from an online survey in mainland China among 1033 Chinese young adults to answer two main research questions. The first research question is: how do young adults combine traditional media and some specific social media and in doing so, how do they create their respective cross-media repertoires and how do distinct media patterns predict variables related to politics, arts and culture and health related, such as political interest, political trust, and political engagement online, interest of arts and culture, interest of health related issues? The second research question is: what are the differences between the impacts of traditional media and social media on young adults’ attitudes towards politics, arts and culture, and health related issues?


Rashid Gabdulhakov | Digital Vigilantism in Russia: Mediated Visibility in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm

Rashid Gabdulhakov | Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of History Culture and Communication (ESHCC) Department of Media and Communication Supervisors: Dr Daniel Trottier and Prof. Susanne Janssen | 1 March 2017 – 28 February 2021 | gabdulhakov[at]eshcc.eur.nl

Digital Vigilantism in Russia: Mediated Citizen-Led Justice in the Context of Social Change and Social Harm

As part of an international and interdisciplinary project supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO project number 276-45-004), this PhD research investigates the phenomenon of digital vigilantism in the context of the Russian Federation. The current literature is largely missing a contextual analysis of digitally mediated citizen-led justice in autocratic environments. This project aims to respond to this gap by looking at post-Soviet Russia. As such, in its current conceptualisation digital vigilantism is understood as an act of offence-taking and spontaneous digitally mediated retaliation performed by autonomous citizens. The notion of autonomy and other related definitional characteristics of digital vigilantism are challenged in Russia due to several critical contextual factors, including cases of state mobilization of citizens and nuances of state control over traditional and digital media.

Thus, the research considers the process of emergence and decay of participation and cases of digital vigilantism in Russia; it addresses methods and motives behind participation as well as greater societal impacts of citizen-led justice. The study considers the role of the ruling regime, state structures, traditional media, social media platforms, counter forces, structural and social biases, and other processes, actors and voices in the manifestation of digital vigilantism and responses to it. This multi-method project relies on qualitative content analysis of traditional media coverage of cases and actors, as well as content analysis of media products generated by participants themselves. As cases that take place in Russia have greater cross-border impacts, the project’s fieldwork is performed not only in Russia but in other post-Soviet states as well. Field studies imply semi-structured in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, such as participants, targets, policymakers, media professionals, rights defenders, NGO representatives, academics, lawyers, and law enforcement authorities.

The core objective of this research is to contribute to advancing theoretical boundaries of digital vigilantism as a platform for both social change and social harm in divergent and complex political environments. These complexities inevitably affect respective negotiations of justice matters and mediated representation of such ‘justice’. In order to address a diverse set of nuances that inform digital vigilantism, the following primary and supportive research questions are addressed:

RQ: How are practices of digital vigilantism in Russia manifested through state-citizen and citizen-to-citizen relations?

SQ1: How is digital vigilantism in Russia informed by historically situated practices of outsourced, crowdsourced, and volunteered citizen-led justice, as well as denouncing, shaming, and moralising of citizens by fellow citizens?

SQ2: How is digital vigilantism framed and rendered meaningful by state-owned and independent Russian media?

SQ3: What are the drivers of emergence and decay of digital vigilantism initiatives in the Russian context?

SQ4: How is visibility (including mediated shaming, moralizing, harassment, and embodied acts of retaliation) weaponised by participants in Russia?

SQ5: How is digital vigilantism experienced by targets in Russia in relation to social inequalities, (digital)divides, social frustrations and biases?






Ornella Porcu Exploring Innovative Learning Culture in the Legacy Media Newsroom (working title)

Ornella Porcu | University of Groningen, Research Centre for Media and Journalism Studies and Hogeschool Windesheim, Kenniscentrum Media | Promotor: Prof. dr Marcel Broersma (RUG) and dr Liesbeth Hermans (Windesheim) | Started February 1st 2016 (until finished) | o.c.porcu[at]rug.nl

Exploring Innovative Learning Culture in the Legacy Media Newsroom (working title)

The aim of this project is to empirically explore the concept of Innovative Learning Culture (ILC) in the Dutch newspaper newsroom.

Amanda Brouwers: Entrepreneurship at work: analysing practice, labour, and creativity in journalism

Amanda Brouwers  | University of Groningen, Journalism and Media Studies | Promotor: prof. dr Tamara C. Witschge, supervisor: dr Dana Mustata | 01-02-2016 — 31-01-2020 | a.d.brouwer[at]rug.nl

Entrepreneurship at work: analysing practice, labour, and creativity in journalism
overarching project: Entrepreneurship at Work

The overall aim of the larger project, initiated by Tamara Witschge, is to theorise emerging shared understandings, everyday work activities, and material contexts of entrepreneurial journalism, in a time when established legacy media face significant challenges and new forms of journalism are emerging. The aim of the sub-project is to provide detailed observations of everyday activities in entrepreneurial journalism.

This PhD tries to accomplish that by letting the researcher practice and participate in the different phases of entrepreneurial journalism, and write an auto-ethnography about the process. Reflection on this process will include different components constituting previous practices, including: everyday work activities; professional self‐understandings; short and longer term aims; emotions (excitement and/or anxiety about the creative and precarious process); personal and professional network relations; material and economic context. Important in the process of reflection will be the concept of practice theory as previously described by Nick Couldry (2004) and Bengt Johannisson (2009), thereby defining journalism as practice.

The project is currently midway, and has so far focused on tacit knowing and a variety of implicit norms in (entrepreneurial) journalism, such as norms surrounding failure, the long working hours culture, and conceptualisations of audiences.