FROM OPEN KNOWLEDGE SHARING TO SEMI-CLOSED GROUPING: THE EVOLUTION OF ACADEMIC SOCIAL MEDIA IN CHINA
Keywords:social media, WeChat, China, scholarly communication, evolution, club, group
This paper reviews the evolution of Chinese academic social media in the past twenty years or so, with an analytical focus of trust and openness. It examines and compares the communicative models in scientific blog, Weibo and WeChat, and explores how academic social media co-evolve with academics’ changing demands, as well as broad social and institutional contexts in China.
This research employs multiple methods and combines data collected at different periods of time including 20 interviews, participatory observation of about 200 social media accounts, and document/discourse analysis. This research identifies transformative changes of Chinese academic social media practices, particularly the shifting focus from open sharing of knowledge in public sphere to semi-closed and semi-public grouping based on acquaintance networking. While Chinese academics believe acquaintance grouping enables more reliable and rewarding communications, this raises issues regarding a “closed” and “exclusive” approach to building trust in scholarly/scientific communications.
Potts, et al. (2017) theorize “knowledge club” as an entity where members form self-constituted groups, endeavoring to create new knowledge, and balancing the positive externalities of commons against the negative externalities of crowding is key. This paper understands the evolution of Chinese academic social media as a process of “clubization” of digital knowledge systems and further discusses the reasons and impact in the Chinese contexts.