Construction of Class Identity on Social Media: The Middle Class in Today’s China

Given the popularization of the internet and the rise in the number of netizens, many scholars have studied the relationship between the internet and identity from multiple perspectives using diverse methods. However, most studies have concentrated on the internet’s influence on interpersonal communication and identity—ethnic, national, and youth identity. Yet few studies have examined the relationship between the internet and identification with a specific social class. In today’s China, the well-educated middle class with steady jobs and above-average income constitutes the mainstream users of social media and elite-dominated specialized internet platforms. Contemporary China’s middle class was formed during the mid- to late 1990s. Simultaneously, the internet entered the daily lives of Chinese people. In such disciplinary and sociohistorical contexts, this study focuses on how the members of the middle class in today’s China construct self- and collective identities through social media. The data for this study were collected through two methods: semi-structured interviews with fifty respondents and nonparticipant observations on two major social media platforms (i.e., the microblogging platforms Weibo and WeChat). Expanding on extant studies on class and media studies, the findings of this study provide a new perspective on the formation of the middle class in today’s China and supplement discussions on the relationship between media use and identity construction.

Memes, Macros, Meaning, and Menace: Some Trends in Internet Memes

This article maps some key patterns associated with how internet memes are conceived and how online meme practices have evolved and morphed during the period from 2000 to the present. We document the rise of internet memes during their early years as a broadly communitarian cultural engagement, mostly characterized by goodwill, humor, and an often “nerdish” sense of shared cultural identity. With the massification of internet access and participation in online social practices employing Web 2.0 and mobile computing capacities, changes occurred in how internet memes were conceived and created (e.g., image macro-generators). Since around 2012, many online meme practices have become intensely politicized and increasingly used for socially divisive and, often, cruel purposes. We explore some of these shifts and argue that what we call “second wave” online memes have been used as weapons in personal, political, and social-cultural wars. We conclude that internet memes scholarship would benefit from revisiting the original conception and theory of memes advanced by Richard Dawkins, and attending closely to what motivated Dawkins in this work.

Raising Robotic Natives?: Persuasive Potentials of Social Robots in Early Education

Recently, social robots are increasingly tested within educational settings as tools to learn about, media to learn through, or social actors to learn from and with. While robots are marketed as making learning more effective, their use raises concerns with respect to the target group’s age, knowledge, and dependency on others. Therefore, this article aims at exploring ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of applying robots in early education. Referring to Fogg’s framework of computers as persuasive technologies (captology), we will derive possible challenges connected to the different roles a robot can take on within learning settings. By reviewing literature from human-robot interaction, ethics, technology assessment, and Science and Technology Studies, we will conclude that applying robots in early education should not mean letting children be taught by them but rather utilizing these technologies to teach about and through them.