All Abstracts > WeChat use and symbolic boundary making: A case study of Chinese international students in Australia
WeChat use and symbolic boundary making: A case study of Chinese international students in Australia
Author | Affiliation:
Xinyu Zhao | Deakin University
3C | WeChat and Chinese diaspora
This paper addresses the mixed ways in which Chinese international students identify, enact and negotiate group boundaries in online spaces. Drawing on the conceptual vocabulary of ‘symbolic boundary making’, it provides insights into how these new migrants imagine and practise social media, WeChat in particular, in relation to those who are culturally similar to them in Australia. Data for analysis were collected through in-depth interviews and online/offline participant observation. Specifically, this paper first explicates how overseas Chinese students create and participate in online communities that bridge diasporic spaces and provide access to diasporic resources. Despite the connective potential of digital communication technologies, I highlight how some students have symbolically differentiated and distanced themselves from the local huaren (ethnic Chinese) communities and ‘typical Chinese international students’. I then analyse how such complexity is played out in their everyday imagination and use of WeChat, through which they construct intra-ethnic boundaries within the ostensibly homogenous ‘Chinese’ communities. In using social media differently from the other Chinese populations in Australia, as perceived by my participants, they seek to perform alternative versions of Chinese identity in online spaces. Through this paper, I hope to bring to light the heterogeneity of being Chinese in the age of social media for contemporary Chinese international students.
About the author
Xinyu (Andy) Zhao recently finished his PhD at Deakin University. His doctoral project is a digital ethnographic study of Chinese international students’ everyday use of social media in Australia. Born and educated in China, Zhao holds an MA degree in English Language and Literature from Renmin University of China where he was a member of its Australian Studies Centre between 2012 and 2015. His recent publications have appeared on Media International Australia and Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration.