Mobile Communication and Relational Mobilization in China

in Asiascape: Digital Asia
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Abstract

Recent studies have shown what indispensable role mobile phones play as means of mobilization in contentious politics around the world. Nevertheless, there has been no clear elaboration of how mobile phone uses translate into mobilization in contentious politics. To fill this gap, the current study employs Passy’s (2003) framework of the threefold function of social ties as channels of mobilization to examine how mobile communication, embedding the dynamics of social ties, influences protest mobilization. It investigates two cases in rural and urban China in which Chinese people employed their mobile phones to mobilize participants for protests, and conducts 24 in-depth interviews with participants in these protests. Findings suggest that using mobile phones for mobilization registers the relational dynamics of social ties, which shapes participants’ perceptions of given protest issues, ensures the safety of protest recruitment and mobilization in a repressive context, and generates pressure on participation, all of which contributes to the mechanism of mobilization. This study concludes with the concept of ‘relational mobilization’, which addresses the embedment and relevance of social ties in the process of mobile-phone-mediated mobilization and its implication for Asian countries.

Mobile Communication and Relational Mobilization in China

in Asiascape: Digital Asia

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