28/04/2023 (Friday) 12:00-13:00 E21B-G002

TikTok (Douyin) and Digital Labor


Digital platforms of user-generated content have always been understood as industries that exploit users’ emotions or immaterial labor. This study aims to empirically examine the status or living conditions of authors, producers, and program hosts who post videos or broadcast live on Douyin. In particular, the study focuses on short videos that align with traditional occupations in society with the intention of exploring how a digital video platform could fundamentally change the “procedures of production” in traditional occupations. Contrary to conventional argument, I argue that findings suggest that, contrary to common conceptions, Wanghongs do not financially rely on the platform to make a living and, in fact, a large portion of Wanghongs do not gain much economically; instead, the platform is seen as providing a space in which Wanghongs do not only creatively construct their content—including “overcoded” imaginaries that might be seen as trespassing on social norms and producing new meanings—with greater autonomy and fewer institutional constraints. They also rediscover their job satisfaction, confidence, and eventually labor as creators who are different from the fixed identities of most laborers.


Anthony Y.H. Fung is Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Professor in the School of Art and Communication at Beijing Normal University at Beijing. His research interests and teaching focus on popular culture and cultural studies, popular music, gender and youth identity, cultural industries and policy, and digital media studies. He published widely in international journals, and authored and edited more than 20 Chinese and English books. His recent books are Global Game Industries and Cultural Policy (2016 under Palgrave Macmillan), Hong Kong Game Industry, Cultural Policy and East Asian Rivalry (2018 under Rowman & Littlefield), and Made in Hong Kong: Studies in Popular Music (Routledge, 2020)