文章摘要
廖 杨,蒙 丽,周志荣.微信朋友圈:“互联网+”场域中的身份建构与文化表达[J].民族学刊,2017,8(5):11-20, 97-101
微信朋友圈:“互联网+”场域中的身份建构与文化表达
WeChat Friends’ Circle: Identity Construction and Cultural Expression in the Field of “Internet Plus”
  
DOI:10.3969/j.issn.1674-9391.2017.05.02
中文关键词: 微信朋友圈  “互联网+”时代  身份认同  身份建构  文化表达  现代性
英文关键词: WeChat friends’ circle  “Internet plus” era  identity  identity construction  cultural expression  modernity
基金项目:
作者单位
廖 杨 华南农业大学公共管理学院 
蒙 丽 华南农业大学党委宣传部 
周志荣 华南农业大学党委宣传部 
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中文摘要:
      微信朋友圈是近年国内兴起的一种社会文化现象。微信中的朋友圈与现实社会中的朋友圈有共性,但差异更为明显。“熟悉”的“陌生人”和“陌生”的“熟人”是微信朋友圈人际关系的两种主要状态。基于互联网等现代通讯媒介,“朋友”在微信场域中具有多重身份认同和身份建构。通过多样化的象征符号及其表达,微信朋友圈的即时互动和超地域性使其具备了现实朋友圈难以企及的社会资本动员能力和文化张力。微信红包、微信点赞、微言众听、微群讨论甚至微商广告等等,构成了“互联网+”时代微信朋友圈的基本业态和常态。微信朋友圈的出现和流行,在某种程度上看是文化与技术融合的现代性产物。作为文化与技术融合的当代社会交往媒介和载体,微信朋友圈已开始出现了一些后现代社会生活的端倪。
英文摘要:
      With the development of Internet and communication technology, WeChat is affecting the life of Chinese people with unprecedented depth and breadth. Originally, WeChat was just a new means of communication, but by combining it with “friends”, it creates a WeChat friends circle which has a unique meaning. If examined from the perspective of cultural anthropology, identity, domain and expression it can be regarded as an analytical perspective worth noting. Ⅰ. WeChat, friends and circle: variations in the cultural domain in the age of “Internet plus” WeChat is a free application launched by Tencent, Inc. in January 21, 2011 to provide instant messaging services for smart devices. Since then, people have begun to chat and negotiate their affairs using WeChat. WeChat support crosscuts communication operators, and operating system platforms through quickly sending free (need to consume a small amount of network traffic) voice messaging, videos, pictures and texts by the network. At the same time, it can also stream media content by sharing information and location-based social plug-ins, such as “shake”, “floating bottle”, “friends circle”, “public platform” and “voice NOTEPAD” etc. From then on, WeChat began to enter peoples’ lives and work in China. The basic functions of WeChat include adding friends, chatting, real-time communication, and WeChat applets, etc. Other functions can be added later. The expansion and upgrading of these WeChat functions reflects the changes in information technology, specifically in contemporary social life. It is also an important arena for combining the era of “Internet plus” era and culture and technology. It lay the foundation for the formation of a “circle” of WeChat and friends. The continuous development of Internet technology not only constantly promotes the expansion of the function of “Internet plus”, but within the circle of the real world and the virtual world of the internet, it also gives the “friends” a “double-nature”, including both instrumental and foundational. Therefore, in the process of the “Internet plus” technology innovation and institutional reform, WeChat, friends and “circle” constitute a dual field of the implicit and explicit. Ⅱ. The construction of the identity of a WeChat friends circle Based on modern communication media, such as “Internet plus”, the “friends” in the field of WeChat have multiple identities and identity construction. On the one hand, the “friends” in WeChat friends circle are from a QQ address book or QQ address book from mobile phone numbers. On the other hand, new friends can be added by using the WeChat “shake” plug-in to search for strangers, and add them into a “friends” circle. Moreover, people can also become the “friends” of a new WeChat group after being added into the new WeChat group by their QQ friends or other WeChat group of “friends”. The “friends” of a WeChat group often differ because of the different nature of the “group”. The process of constructing a colleagues group, or classmates group is essentially a process which goes from “real to virtual” during which the social relationships in reality is extended to the WeChat space which compresses time and space. The reality of social culture is also embedded in the WeChat friends circle to various degrees. Those WeChat groups which pull people into the group via an acquaintance, or people with whom they are not so familiar, or add members through people’s active searching and who apply to be accepted by the group organizers, have obvious industrial or commercial characteristics. In these cases, most members of the group are relatively unfamiliar with each other. However, they slowly change from being strangers to “acquaintances”. The process of changing from “strangers” to “acquaintances” is the process of identity construction and cultural identity of the WeChat friends circle. Because of the influence of cultural ideas, human feelings, relationships and the “face” culture of Chinese society have inevitably infiltrated into the circle of WeChat friends. “Culture is the link between history and reality, but culture reflects more history than the reality of society, or alternatively, we can say, culture reflects less the reality of society than history.” (Liao Yang, 2012) Using this cultural perspective to analyze the cultural phenomenon of the WeChat friends circle, we perhaps can have more understanding of the historical trend of the integration of culture and technology. In the early days of the development of the internet, people in the internet world were mostly virtual, and net names, account numbers or user names were basically the product of self-construction. After the start of the 21st Century, communication, information, capital, and resources began to depend more and more on the internet to get involved in people’s work, production and daily life. Then, the network began to turn into an integrated period of multi-network of the Internet of things and “Internet plus”. At this point, identity construction on the Internet emerged as a virtual regression reality. As a public space for information society communication, the WeChat friends circle tries to maintain a closed inner circle within a relatively open virtual public space. Whether people can view or receive information of the friends circle from the other side became a way of social isolation, and WeChat “friends” were gradually shaped into “strangers” “acquaintances” and “familiar strangers”. In a sense, the WeChat friends circle can be viewed as a social networking domain that integrates technologies such as the internet and instant messaging. The identity construction and cultural identity of a WeChat friends circle is a diachronic and synchronic social and cultural process. Cultural cognition influences identity construction, which then influences social communication. “Familiar strangers”, and “strange” “acquaintances” are the two main forms of human relationships in WeChat friends circle. Ⅲ. The Cultural Expression of the WeChat Friends Circle The various WeChat spatial designs and increasingly complete WeChat functions provide the conditions for the diversification and personalized cultural expression of the WeChat friends circle. The cultural expression found in WeChat may be more domain, situational and instrumental because of its rapidness. This attracts attention in our information consuming society. Firstly, through the diversification of symbols and their expressions, the immediate interaction and trans-locality domain of the WeChat friends circle give it the ability for social capital mobilization and cultural tension that cannot be reached via a real circle of friends. With the help of the internet and WeChat and other contemporary social platforms, public voting is becoming increasingly socially capitalized. The WeChat friends circle has become a “market for the mobilization of human capital”. If there are not many “friends" in the circle of friends, many people will offer themselves to join the “WeChat group” in order to start “canvassing” a rescue. Despite the fact that the WeChat friends circle is essentially a public social space, many people frequently blur the boundaries and dimensions between the private space and public space of the WeChat friends circle. They tend to take the WeChat friends circle as a window and platform for displaying one’s self or self-display, which brings the popularity of “DIY” to the WeChat friends circle. This “trans-locality” and “interactive immediacy” give the WeChat friends circle in modern society the ability to mobilize social capital and a cultural tension that the real circle of friends cannot match. Secondly, WeChat Red-packets, WeChat praise, WeChat listen to, WeChat group discussion and even WeChat-business advertisements and so on, constitute the normal basic format of the era of the “Internet plus” WeChat friends circle. “Internet plus” is the achievement of the thinking practices of the internet, and it promotes a constant change of social economy (Huang Chuxin, 2015; Liu Yan, 2016). WeChat Red-packets, WeChat praise, WeChat listening, WeChat group discussion and so on, are the additive processes and alliances of “Internet plus”. WeChat-business and its advertisements are the network’s upgrade of the traditional industries of “Internet plus”. WeChat Red-packets emerged only in recent years. The reason why WeChat could develop so rapidly is closely related to WeChat’s convenient functions, such as WeChat voice, video, red-packet transceiver, transfer of funds and so on. Moreover, WeChat can produce better communication and integration of “material and spirit”. In addition, WeChat praise, WeChat listening, WeChat group discussions and even WeChat business advertisements and so on, constitute the standard basic format of the era of “Internet “plus WeChat friends circle. WeChat business and its advertisements are the products of traditional business and “Internet plus” and WeChat social integration platforms, and they are now on the rise. However, the current WeChat business basically still adheres to the marketing model of “pulling the head off the assembly line production”. The WeChat friends circle is only a carrier for “pulling off the head” and advertising. The WeChat friends circle is relatively fixed, and also relatively “closed”. This is because it is a circle constructed from the WeChat friends who share some common interests, a common language, or common values, etc. Thirdly, the emergence and popularity of the WeChat friends circle is, to some extent, a product of modernity produced from the integration of culture and technology. The relationship between culture and technology is an important proposition that perplexes the development of society. Technically, modernity is mainly embodied as an instrumental rationality, that is, technology is instrumental. In the eyes of anthropologists, it should be “technology adapts to culture” rather than “culture adapts to technology”. The emergence and popularity of the WeChat group and the WeChat circle of friends make it seem that we are seeing the integration of culture and technology. With the rapid development of internet instant messaging and WeChat, people have begun to think about the boundary between private life and public space. Because the WeChat friends circle has the nature of a public space, more and more WeChat users are beginning to reflect on the public and private boundaries of the WeChat friends circle, and are taking personalized action. Ⅳ. Conclusion and Further Discussions Based on the previous discussion and analysis, we can draw the following three preliminary conclusions: 1) Based on the media of internet communication, the concept of “friends” has multiple identities and construction of identities in the WeChat arena. The circle of friends in WeChat is similar to ones circle of friends in real society, but the differences are more obvious. “Familiar strangers” and “strange” “Acquaintances” are the two main forms of human relationships in WeChat friends circle. 2) Through the diversification of symbols and their expressions, the immediate interaction and trans-locality features of the WeChat friends circle gives it the ability to the mobilize of social capital and cultural tensions that cannot be reached via a real circles of friends. WeChat Red-packets, WeChat praise, WeChat listening, group discussion and even WeChat business advertising, etc. constitute the standard basic form of the era of the “Internet plus” of the WeChat friends circle. 3) The emergence and popularity of WeChat’s circle of friends is, to some extent, a product of modernity produced from the integration of culture and technology. Of course, as a modern medium and carrier of social communication with the integration of culture and technology, the WeChat friends circle has begun to show signs of postmodern social life. Nowadays, WeChat has become more and more involved in our work, study and life, and has an immeasurable impact on the material, spiritual, institutional and behavioral. Since the 1980’s and 90’s, foreign scholars have begun to focus on the anthropology of networks(Escobar A., 1994; Downey G. L., 1995; Wilson S. M., 2002; Coleman E. G., 2010). Chinese scholars’ research on the anthropology of networks began around 2000, and has been only more than ten years in the making. The research is not only weak in strength, but also has no basic academic consensus. (Zhao Xudong, 2017a; Zhao Xudong, 2017b; Li Li, 2017; Ji Guangxu, 2017; Ye Hong, 2017; Ma Xu, 2017; Wu Zhendong, 2016; Li Zhirong, 2017; Zhuang Kongshao, 2012) The emergence and popularity of WeChat stimulated anthropologists to think about conducting anthropological research and researching text expression in the Internet era. In the past two or three years, some keen young anthropologists, such as Professor Zhao Xudong, began to reflect on the methods of traditional anthropological fieldwork and crisis of “writing culture” within ethnography. He put forward new ideas about “WeChat ethnography”, and announced the arrival of the era of WeChat ethnography. This is very commendable. At the same time, however, there are many issues that still need to be discussed and analyzed. First of all, what is the relationship between the ethnography of WeChat and Internet Anthropology? Can WeChat ethnography replace Internet Anthropology? Is WeChat ethnography a paradigm of Internet anthropology, or a new aspect of Internet anthropology in contemporary China? The clarification of these problems will help us to think about this new development of Chinese anthropology in the Internet era. Secondly, how can we accurately understand the ethnography of WeChat? Is it the “ethnography of WeChat”, “WeChat ethnography”, or “micro ethnography”? Are the field work methods and writing of the WeChat ethnography distinct from traditional ethnography? In what ways is there a difference? To what extent is the difference? These questions involve the development, orientation and future of the WeChat ethnography, which is hard to be ignored. Thirdly, is the fragmentation of WeChat information prone to cultural misreading? Will the holistic view of traditional anthropology lose its explanatory power in the WeChat era? Is the convenience of WeChat information gaining impact over traditional anthropological fieldwork? The observation, participant observation and observation of participation in WeChat are basically conducted in the same field. Can the site transformation of data collection and ethnographic writing be achieved in a rational way? However, the rich cultural phenomenon of WeChat friends circle also provides a wealth of field materials and a platform for the study of WeChat ethnography and Internet field work. It is foreseen that with the development of internet information technology, field work via the mobile internet will form the cornerstone of anthropological research together with traditional field work.
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