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Room 352, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2UW

Dr Ralph Parfect

Microblogging as public performance and professional networking

Since its launch in 2009, Sina Weibo, the microblogging facility of one of China’s leading online media corporations, has become the most popular microblog service in China, with over 250 million users. While much attention has focussed on Weibo’s political uses and constraints, many of its most prominent users are public figures or celebrities from a range of fields including commercial entertainment, sport and business. In this paper I examine the use of Weibo by a particular category of public figure in the cultural field, namely Chinese film directors.

Many of these occupy an ambiguous position between cultural, commercial and political imperatives, in an industry in train to national policies promoting the growth of the cultural industries for domestic consumption and international soft power.

Focussing on three directors in particular, Chen Kaige, Feng Xiaogang and Jia Zhangke, I theorise and analyse in terms of public performance and professional networking both the original content that they post and the use that they make of Weibo’s interactive features, such as following other users, ‘retweeting’ their posts, and responding to comments.

I find that Weibo becomes for all three directors not only a tool for self-presentation and self-promotion, linked both to their professional filmmaking activities and to social and personal concerns, but also a vehicle for a kind of Chinese cinephilia and filmworld networking, in which directors talk to other directors, creative personnel, gatekeepers and fans about Chinese film and related matters.

I argue that these three very different directors are linked by a concern for the success of Chinese film, both aesthetically and commercially, and in both the domestic and the global market, as well as by broader ethical and social interests.

Speaker Biography

Ralph Parfect is a Teaching Fellow in the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, as well as being the Institute’s administrator and assistant director. His research focuses on culture and the internet in mainland China, in particular the ways in which cultural production in film and literature is mediated by both fans and artsworld professionals via online fora, blogs and microblogs. He has given conference papers on the fiction of Guo Xiaolu, the internet reception of Zhang Yimou’s film Under The Hawthorn Tree, and the online fan culture around Han Han. He has a PhD in English Literature from King’s College London, and has lectured and published on British fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

All welcome 

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