This article explores the state of the field of research on digital Buddhism, contextualizing the field within a broader scope. It discusses the present and future digital ethnographic study of Buddhism in the Chinese-speaking community by presenting the methodological approaches taken so far to study this phenomenon, the kinds of case studies explored, and the epistemological problems that are facing the scholars in this new field. Because of the particular historical, social, and political factors that comprise the Buddhist community in Chinese society (both in the PRC and ROC), Buddhist cyberspace should not be reviewed as an isolated phenomenon. Instead, Buddhist cyberspace should be considered part of three intersecting domains: religion, technology, and the market economy. These three domains have become increasingly central in Chinese society, as they rapidly change, evolve, and influence both the Chinese-speaking community and the ways in which scholars study it.
The initial lack of scientific consensus regarding COVID-19 and public controversies concerning implemented countermeasures have created fertile soil for the circulation of disinformation and conspiracy narratives. Applying a mixed-methods discourse analysis, we examine the use of typical rhetorical strategies and metaphors of conspiracy narratives and disinformation, and we study overlaps with discursive strategies of the New Right in Japan. Our discourse analysis uses a qualitative and a quantitative approach. The former ranges from bestselling publications by the contribution of historical revisionist manga author Kobayashi Yoshinori to the propagation of COVID-19 – related conspiracy narratives and disinformation. The latter analyzes data collected from Amazon’s review section, through which we explore narrative reach and reader reception.
After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital ethnography became an important methodological tool for researchers. In my case, I shifted my research from China to digital China, and I engaged with China’s social media as my research field. But what are the challenges for an ethnographer in conducting research into China’s digital space and networks from afar? And how do China’s social media platforms mediate the formation of relationships with potential participants? Based on two years of online research, integrated with literature on autoethnography, China’s social media platforms, and performativity, this article describes China’s digital domain and explains how social media platforms mediate ethnographic research. Autoethnography facilitated this research on a critical notion of digital China in which institutional regulation contributes to the transformation and production of digital ethnography.
This article explores what conflicts over information and meaning-making in digital Asia can tell us about politics in advanced networked societies, using examples from East Asia. It interprets the construction and spread of unverified information as part of near-ubiquitous political practices that threaten to lead to a decoupling of realities. The article makes the case that digital Asia is a crucial site for researching such practices: Asian societies are characterized by a long-standing engagement with rumours, and they also maintain highly developed digital infrastructures across diverse socio-political and economic environments. To explore the relevance of rumours and conspiracy theories in such contexts, the article suggests a three-step research agenda that analyzes the anatomy of rumours, traces their genealogy across complex socio-technical systems, and assesses their pathology – that is, the way in which they are products of, and in turn produce, power in translocal networks.
In this short article, I use several vignettes on digital relations in Asia to discuss the spatialities of digital relations across Asia’s digital geography and to highlight the application of spatial lenses to hybrid phenomena. These vignettes from Beijing, Weibo, Weixin, Telegram, Google Drive, Myanmar, India, and the Wa State show that territory, positionality, scale, place, network, and mobility are spatialities that can be used to understand both Asia’s digital development and the spatial complexities of Asia. In doing so, I highlight some of the benefits of a spatial approach in digital relations, some of the thorny issues with which this approach intersects, and the research agendas that emerge from this approach. I conclude by reflecting on the multiple states of the field, focusing on points of optimism and pessimism.
Studies on digital Asia tend to cluster around certain interrelated core strands, which has led other topics to be largely overlooked, one of which is the state. Scholars neglect the state to their detriment. First, the article shows that the state is not a monolith but, rather, a venue for contesting and debating different concerns, in which various interests collide and various actors seek to gain influence. Second, the article claims that, to a significant degree, the state can create and shape the landscape within which other actors conduct their affairs. It does not do so in a vacuum but often in response to particular mobilized social and economic concerns. This contribution mostly focuses on China, but its findings – as the concluding section discusses – also apply to other countries in Asia and worldwide.
Gig Economy platforms have become enmeshed in the fabric of urban sociality. While they have substantially disrupted conditions of labouring, participating in the platform economy has also changed social and moral norms globally. Importantly, what constitutes normative moral and prosocial interpersonal behaviour is key to making platforms function as social environments, but these norms are also constantly challenged and rearticulated through everyday practice among different stakeholders. By drawing on long-term fieldwork across gig economy platforms in urban India, we offer a typology of dynamic social and moral norms around tipping, gratitude, politeness and more that sustain platform interactions. The paper’s aim is to re-centre the vitality and dynamism of everyday media practice, social relationships, and cultural values in shaping platforms. Relatedly, moving beyond binaries of exploitation/empowerment, we show how negotiations between agents with differential power contribute to shifts in platform culture that cannot be fully explained through notions of intentionality.
This study compares the expression of opinion in incongruent offline and online settings regarding the issue of gender desegregation in Kuwait’s public schools. Spiral of silence theory provides the theoretical foundation for examining the impact of certain cultural factors and religious influences on the expression of opinion, their relationship to the fundamental tenets of the theory, such as fear of social isolation, and Twitter use variables among respondents to a survey. The results to a questionnaire administered to 534 public and private university students indicate greater overall expression of opinion in the offline than online context. Offline and online, the nonconformist personality variable was a positive predictor of expression of opinion, and fear of social isolation was a negative predictor. The perceived position of Islam on the issue was a predictor of expression of opinion only in the offline context. Finally, daily average use of Twitter was an additional predictor of expression of opinion in the online environment.
This article examines how digital spaces for political participation by migrants are experienced and governed in South Korea. Drawing on semi-structured interviews conducted in Seoul, South Korea, between April and July 2018, this article argues that migrant participation in digital democratic processes in South Korea is hindered by a fragmented and centralized digital management, which can be linked back to the specific historical-political context in which this digital space was developed.
Based on a case study of the lived experiences of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh between 2017 and 2019, this article focuses on displaced people’s digital needs and innovative efforts to navigate the challenges in their situation. The article first discusses the major barriers faced by Rohingya refugees in using various digital devices and platforms and how these obstacles adversely affect them in obtaining necessary information and humanitarian services. Our findings from the field highlight the uniquely important role that mobile repair shops in the camps play in providing online-offline hybrid solutions to circumvent restrictions imposed on the refugee community by the host government. The findings also show that different types of community leaders have emerged and that Rohingya women use digital means to push back against double discrimination. The article concludes with policy considerations related to the geopolitically transcendent issues of displacement, democracy, and digital rights.