Kun He | From Civil Society to News Reports: How Populist Discourse affects News Discourse and Official Discourse in China

Kun He | From Civil Society to News Reports: How Populist Discourse affects News Discourse and Official Discourse in China | University of Groningen, Department of Media Studies and Journalism | Prof. Marcel Broersma & Dr. S.A. (Scott) Eldridge II | October 1st 2018 to October 1st 2022 | Kun.H[at]rug.nl

From Civil Society to News Reports: How Populist Discourse affects News Discourse and Official Discourse in China

Recent political trends and events, such as the Brexit, the triumph of Donald Trump in the US presidency election as well as the rise of populist parties and politicians in European countries, have brought the concept of “populism” to the center of global discussion. However, populism is inherently a shifty concept, which makes it difficult to grasp analytically. A number of scholars have therefore compared populism to chameleon, which adjust its own colors to contexts in a consistent manner . Remarkably, however, the topic of populism have generated a wealthy of theory and research since the 1990s, provoked considerable debate and numerous theoretical models encompassing different understanding of the definition and construct of populism, and produced few clear straightforward answers due to its high dependence on socio-political contexts.

Although the contemporary populism study is in a considerable state of flux with several parallel developments taking place and new directions emerging, there are three approaches that have been particularly prominent in the field: the ideational-approach by Cas Mudde (2004) , political-strategy approach by Kurt Weyland (2001) and socio-cultural approach by Pierre Ostiguy(2017).

In my study, therefore, the developments and directions with respect to the existing theoretical approaches aforementioned will be traced so as to map the current political issues (in both traditional perspectives and socio-contextually sensitive perspective). As the introduction chapter of The Oxford Handbook of Populism (2017)stated, “unfortunately, we have not been able to include chapters on populism in China… because there is little current research on populism about those places” , my research questions will be focused on: 1) whether the existing definitions are still explainable/can be applicable to the China context and what the “color” of populism is in China; 2) what the characteristics of online populism are in the Chinese context and whether they vary from those in Western countries/in the west-east transaction; 3) Whether online populism affects news reports, official reports or official discourse. If so, in what manner?


Veerle Ros | The Subjective Frame: a Cognitive Approach to Authenticity in Documentary Film

Veerle Ros | University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts | Promotor(es); supervisor(s):  Prof. dr Liesbeth Korthals Altes, Dr Miklós Kiss and Dr Susan Aasman | March 2017 – March 2021 | v.ros[at]rug.nl

The Subjective Frame: a Cognitive Approach to Authenticity in Documentary Film

Project description:

The idea that photographic and filmic images contain traces of historical or actual reality has long been thought of as central to documentary’s defining quality as a ‘document’ of historical reality. This paradigm proved untenable in the face of arguments concerning the inherently constructed nature of representations, given additional momentum amidst the current digitization of visual media. Recent documentaries abandon this referential claim altogether by utilizing innovative techniques such as re-enactment, animation, and digital image manipulation. While this has led to an understanding of documentary as something more diverse, subjective and performative than previously assumed, a side-effect is that the boundaries between documentary and fiction film appear to become ever more nebulous. Nevertheless, the cognitive distinction between fiction and non-fiction remains of crucial importance to human communication.

This project aims to construct a functional model of the cognitive processes by which viewers of documentaries distinguish fact from fiction in engagements with contemporary, genre-defying forms of documentary, such as animated documentaries and video memoirs. These provide challenging border cases that force us to critically reflect on the different mechanisms viewers utilize to assess the (non-)fictionality of a medial representation. The working hypothesis is that such assessments depend on the cognitive principle of framing, with viewers drawing on a wide array of textual, contextual, and intertextual cues to construe a film as fiction or nonfiction. The proposed model takes into account not only these three levels of textuality, but also examines the largely roles that embodied simulation and perceptual specificity play in reality status evaluations. Thus, the research seeks to bridge the gaps between existing text-, context- and reception-oriented approaches to documentary film and the embodied cognition of a hypothetical viewer.



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?