Postdoctoral Fellow: Wen Ma

Citizen Journalism in the Scoring Society: Investigating the Changing Practices of Citizen Journalism and the Future of Democracy in the Datafied Age

My PhD research uses the Social Credit System (SCS) in China as a conspicuous example of data scoring to investigate the implications for social media. The SCS expands beyond financial and economic credit rating to various aspects of social lives to assess and rate Chinese citizens’ “trustworthiness” (Chengxin) and allocate resources and punishments accordingly (State Council 2014). During the interaction with social media, user behaviours and many aspects of social life are datafied, which, in the context of the SCS, will be collected and used for governance purposes and affect their lives in profound ways. My thesis explored the SCS’s implications for a series of online activities, including online participation, social networking, and online shopping at the individual level, based on which I projected the future of social media in a datafied and scoring society at the macro level.  

During the fellowship, I will offer new knowledge and debate on this topic by translating my thesis into two journal articles. Next, I will expand it with a follow-up study on the implications of data scoring for citizen journalism. With evolving technologies and the convergence between citizen journalism and institutional journalism, it is challenging to define citizen journalism in today’s media landscape. Moreover, with the increasing and expanding application of data analytics for which social media is a major data mine, a critical question emerges: to what extent the Internet and social media will maintain as a facilitator for citizen journalism, social changes, and democracy, rather than a tool for data extraction, capitalism exploitation, surveillance and data governance. Due to the close tie between citizen journalism and social media, examining the changing practices in citizen journalism helps map the reconfiguration of the citizen-state relationship, the liberating potential social media, and the future of democracy in a scoring society. 

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