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Hui Zhao



Civic Engagement in Collective remembering: Social media, information credibility and knowledge production in contemporary China


  • Hui Zhao

Summary, in English

Abstract: This paper provides one of the first studies on the role of social media in shaping collective memory in contemporary China. Social media enable the ordinary to participate in creating, interacting, and distributing alternative narratives of the past. Therefore, collective memory has being reconfigured under the influence of social media. Nevertheless, previous collective memory studies largely took cultural artefacts that are mainly created by social elites as straightforward manifestations of the collective understanding of the past. Few collective memory studies have included “user-created” narratives as an important representation of collective memory. To fill the gap, this article identifies narratives on microblogging platform as a new source of collective memory and examines their influences on prescriptive memory. It draws on the theory of counter-public sphere and takes the debate over the history of the Great Chinese Famine on Weibo – a twitter-like microblogging service in China as a case. A combined research design, namely case study and online ethnography, has been employed to scrutinize how ordinary people utilize Weibo to facilitate a counter-public sphere and cultivate pluralistic and communicative collective memories. Findings suggest that alternative narratives on Weibo generated by ordinary Chinese people resist against the authoritarian narratives on politically sensitive memory while constructing their own narratives of the past. For one thing, Weibo acts as a tool for ordinary people to give out their voices and struggle against prescriptive remembering. For another, Weibo shakes the dust of previous marginal memories and excluded knowledge, helping the ordinary to construct their own narratives of the past. In conclusion, Weibo gives “history back to the people in their own words.” In this sense, Weibo as social media provides a valuable platform for ordinary Chinese people not only to challenge but also to change the dominant memory in contemporary China.


  • Institutionen för strategisk kommunikation








  • Communication Studies


  • social media
  • collective memory
  • participatory
  • knowledge production

Conference name

International Communication Association (ICA) annual conference 2014

Conference date

2014-05-22 - 2014-05-26

Conference place

Seattle, United States