Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondHi there. I'm Tom MacDonald, and this is my colleague, Xinyuan Wang. So last week Elizabetta and Shriram looked at social media and its impact on politics and gender. This week we're going to look at social media in relation to some other areas of everyday life, like education, business, and privacy. So far, we've really just concentrated on a few social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. But just imagine, we can devise an ideal scientific experiment to understand social media. Say, if we can create a place that has entirely different social media platforms to everywhere else. So as a point of comparison, what might we learn from this?

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsWell, I suppose if these people in this different place who are using these different platforms ended up acting in the same way as everybody else, it would suggest that actually there's nothing too special about these platforms themselves, and that social media in general makes people think and act in a pretty similar way everywhere. But by contrast, if these people in this different place who were using these different platforms acted in completely different ways, well, that would seem to suggest that actually it was the nature of the platforms that were important. You know, those technical affordances that Daniel spoke about in week 1, they really do dictate the way people think and act when they are online.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsOr we might end up with an alternative argument-- that local culture aligns people with different social media platforms to suit the way they form groups and socialise. Well, what's really interesting is actually just such an experiment really does exist. Because you see in China, actually, people use a completely different set of social media platforms to the whole of the rest of the world. And China's actually the only country in the whole of our project where we've got two separate field sites that are researching how completely different populations relate to and use those different social media platforms. So this week, we'll focus on China.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 secondsAnd the challenge that Chinese social media poses for our goal of trying to understand social media use anthropologically. So the first challenge is trying to understand what it is that makes Chinese internet, and its social media, distinctive. Like, how people access the internet in China, what kind of social media platforms people use, and theories we might use to understand them. But also, there is a second challenge, which is how we compare these two really different populations in different field sites within the same country, and how they relate to those different social media platforms. And also, we'll consider a third challenge, which relates to specific things.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 secondsThinking about how comparing our Chinese and non-Chinese field site use social media, with regards to topics like business, education, and privacy, can help us to better understand the cultural side of social media.

What’s special about China?

In this video, we will introduce the content of Week 4, which focuses on social media in China.

First we discuss how the distinctive nature of Chinese social media could be helpful as part of the broader project of a comparative anthropology of social media. We then focus on three themes that seem of particular significance, not just to people in our Chinese fieldsites, but also worldwide: education, business, and privacy.

Do you know of any other places that use different social media from the main platforms we have discussed so far? What could we learn from those?

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This video is from the free online course:

Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

UCL (University College London)

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