Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [W]
Eileen Le Han, Michigan State University, US
The emergence and growth of Weibo (‘micro-blog’) in China is the product of an intertwining set of changing socio-cultural conditions. These include the sophisticated mechanisms of state control, the dynamism of the market economy, the collective need to access uncensored global and local information, and the public respect for tradition and remembrance. Weibo is thus placed at the interface between control and resistance, the global and the local, the past and the present.
Since it was first launched, Weibo has become an important site for different forms of participation of Chinese people in public life. During the first stage, ‘collective witnessing’ or Weiguan (‘spectate’), citizens became actively engaged in ongoing events, and were empowered to expose social injustices and hold those in power accountable. In the second stage, known as ‘modernity debate’, two large segments of the Chinese public spontaneously started debates about social and political issues pertaining to the country’s evolution towards a modern nation state. The third and most recent stage, which presents Weibo as an ‘interest-based network’, has brought about a significant turn away from politically sensitive topics towards the consolidation of a business model of growth, catering to diverse interests. As an ‘event-driven’ platform (Han 2016) capitalizing on the technological affordances of publicness, Weibo was initially promoted by its operators as a news medium, with media and journalists as its essential user base. Today, it represents an important barometer of public opinion.
Weibo’s capacity to enhance the visibility of topical issues and serve as a source of raw data has attracted a significant amount of scholarly attention. Some researchers have examined the government’s engagement in this platform and shown how, contrary to conventional wisdom, the Chinese state largely censors calls for collective action, but it is generally tolerant of critical views of the government (King et al. 2013). Other scholars have focused on the various forms of interplay between government and citizens that Weibo has enabled (Gu 2014). Weibo, for example, has also been widely studied as a social contentious space (Poell et al. 2014), from the perspective of activism and collective action (Huang and Sun 2014), and as a form of resistance against official propaganda (Nip and Fu 2016). Other specialists, however, have shown that Weibo may also reinforce power differentials and the voice of influential users (Svensson, 2014). Finally, Weibo has been the subject of study using traditional mass communication theories such as framing and agenda-setting, and been studied as a ‘semantic network’ generating public discourses about key social issues such as privacy (Yuan et al. 2013).
Gu, Q. (2014) ‘Sina Weibo: A mutual communication apparatus between the Chinese government and Chinese citizens’, China Media Research 10(2): 72-86.
Han, E. L. (2016) Micro-blogging Memories: Weibo and collective remembering in Contemporary China, Palgrave Macmillan.
Huang, R. and X. Sun (2014) ‘Weibo Network, Information Diffusion and Implications for Collective Action in China’, Information, Communication & Society 17(1): 86-104.
King, G., J. Pan, J. and M. Roberts (2013) ‘How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression’, American Political Science Review 107(02): 326-343.
Nip, J. Y. and K. W. Fu (2016) ‘Challenging Official Propaganda? Public opinion leaders on Sina Weibo’, The China Quarterly 225: 122-144.
Poell, T., J. de Kloet, and G. Zeng. (2014) ‘Will the Real Weibo Please Stand Up? Chinese online contention and actor-network theory’, Chinese Journal of Communication 7(1): 1-18.
Svensson, M. (2014) ‘Voice, Power and Connectivity in China’s Microblogosphere: Digital divides on SinaWeibo’, China Information 28(2): 168-188.
Yuan, E. J., M. Feng and J. A. Danowski (2013) ‘‘Privacy’ in Semantic Networks on Chinese Social Media: The case of Sina Weibo’, Journal of Communication 63(6): 1011-1031.
Henry Jones, Aston University, UK
Coined in 1995, the term wiki relates to a particular kind of software which places the editing functionality of a webpage on the server. As such, wikis are widely recognized as especially powerful tools for networked collaboration because they permit “asynchronous, incremental, and transparent contributions” from a theoretically unlimited number of geographically dispersed and otherwise unaffiliated individuals (Reagle 2010:6). This entry provides a broad overview of the ways in which citizen media scholars have so far engaged with wiki platforms as new public spaces for mass participation, knowledge sharing and community building. It begins by setting the development of these first produser technologies in their historical context and explicating the core features of wiki software. The entry then turns to the wide range of different types of wiki community that have emerged on the web since the turn of the century. It draws on scholarship focused on the largest and best known wiki, namely, Wikipedia (König 2013; Reagle 2010), fan wikis such as Lostpedia and Wookiepedia (Mittell 2013; Toton 2008), and applications in the field of citizen journalism, including Wikinews (Vis 2009). In the final section, the promise and pitfalls of wiki software as a tool which might enable new forms of participatory democracy and activism are addressed through a discussion of WikiLeaks, the “wiki for whistle-blowers” (Schmidt 2007).
König, R. (2013) ‘Wikipedia: Between lay participation and elite knowledge representation’, Information, Communication and Society 16(2): 160-177.
Mittell, J. (2013) ‘Wikis and Participatory Fandom’, in A. Delwiche and J. Jacobs Henderson (eds) The Participatory Cultures Handbook, New York and London: Routledge, 35-42.
Reagle, J. M. Jr. (2010) Good Faith Collaboration: The culture of Wikipedia, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Schmidt, T. S. (2007) ‘A Wiki for Whistle-Blowers’, Time Magazine, 22 January. Available at: http://content.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1581189,00.html
Shirky, C. (2008) Here Comes Everybody: The power of organising without organisations, London: Allen Lane.
Toton, S. (2008) ‘Cataloging Knowledge: Gender, generative fandom, and the Battlestar Wiki’, Flow Journal, 1: https://www.flowjournal.org/2008/01/cataloging-knowledge-gender-generative-fandom-and-the-battlestar-wiki/
Vis, F. (2009) ‘Wikinews Reporting of Hurricane Katrina’, in S. Allan and E. Thorsen (eds) Citizen Journalism: Global perspectives, New York: Peter Lang, 65-74.
Daniela Mansbach, University of Wisconsin-Superior, USA
The term ‘witnessing’ has a double meaning; while eye-witnessing is a practice that is based on the premise of accuracy and truth, bearing witness is understood as a political act of testifying to what cannot be seen, of making sense of suffering and oppression (Oliver 2004). Thus, bearing witness neither follows the legal standards of witnessing nor is assumed to be able to provide an objective and accurate representation of events. Testimony, according to this account, does not represent ‘truth’, instead focusing on bringing moral and political subjects into being by reconstructing subjectivity (Felman and Laub 1992, Givony 2011, Mansbach 2016).
For a number of decades, witnessing and testimony have been used widely by different groups and communities to represent their own experiences, and are thus consistent with Rodriguez’s (2011) definition of citizen’s media. This entry offers an analysis of these practices and the way they have been shaping our current understanding of representation, subjectivity and activism, as well as the relations between them. It does so by discussing various examples of citizen media to explore, first, how witnessing and testimony can transform and empower without further reinforcing the objectification of the victim, and second, what makes testimony an act of citizenship, and how it can be shaped and used to increase empathy and decrease dehumanization. The entry aims to outline some of the limitations of witnessing and testimony, as well as the potential of these practices to function as a form of advocacy in cases of ethical and humanitarian crises.
Felman, S. and D. Laub (1992) Testimony: Crises of witnessing in literature, psychoanalysis, and history, London & New York: Taylor and Francis.
Givoni, M. (2011) ‘Beyond the Humanitarian/Political Divide: Witnessing and the making of humanitarian ethics’, Journal of Human Rights 10(1): 55-75.
Mansbach, D. (2016) ‘Witnessing as Activism: Watching the Other at the Israeli Checkpoints’, Journal of Human Rights 15(4): 496-508.
Oliver, K. (2004) ‘Witnessing and Testimony’, Parallax 10(1): 79–88.
Rodríguez, C. (2011) Citizens’ Media Against Armed Conflict: Disrupting violence in Colombia, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.
World Social Forum
Hilde C. Stephansen, University of Westminster, UK
This entry begins by providing an overview of the history and development of the World Social Forum (WSF), situating it within the broader context of the global justice movement that emerged in the mid-1990s. Highlighting its unique character as a meeting place for civil society actors from diverse backgrounds – and thus a site of tension between different political traditions – the entry surveys key scholarly and activist debates about the WSF. It examines the forum’s various exclusions, controversies about its supposed status as an ‘open space’ and the question of political efficacy, tensions between different political cultures and traditions, the relationship between the local and global, and debates about whether the WSF can be conceptualized as a global public sphere. The entry then turns to focus more specifically on citizen media in the WSF process. Although a concern with media and communications has been largely absent from the literature on the WSF, the forum has provided an important meeting place for media activists from around the world, who have gathered to produce alternative media coverage of the forum, build networks, and put media and communications issues on the agenda of global civil society. The significance of citizen media within the WSF process is not limited to their capacity to disseminate information but extends to a range of practices such as capacity-building, networking and movement-building.
Conway, J. (2013) Edges of Global Justice: The World Social Forum and its ‘others’, London: Routledge.
Santos, B. de S. (2006) The Rise of the Global Left: The World Social Forum and beyond, London: Zed Books.
Sen, J. and P. Waterman (eds) (2008) World Social Forum: Challenging Empires, Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Stephansen, H. C. (2019) ‘Conceptualizing a Distributed, Multi-scalar Global Public Sphere through Activist Communication Practices in the World Social Forum’, Global Media and Communication 15(3): 345-360