Author: Wang, Yilei
Title: Women’s identity construction and self-branding through social media : a multimodal analysis of Chinese wanghong girls’ video-sharing practice on Tiktok
Advisors: Feng, William (ENGL)
Degree: DALS
Year: 2021
Subject: Women -- Identity
Social media
Internet and women
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: x, 206 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: Social media have facilitated the development of a new wanghong (micro­celebrity) profession in China, where young women capitalize on their identities in promoting beauty products. Against this background, the present study investigates how Chinese wanghong girls construct their digitalized identities in video-sharing practice on TikTok. Drawing upon Feng (2016), a social semiotic framework is developed to model wanghong girls' identities as evaluative attributes and to elucidate how they are constructed through an orchestration of verbal, visual, and audio resources. A corpus of 1258 videos posted by six top-ranked wanghong girls are collected from TikTok. The analysis shows that wanghong girls define their self-brands in terms of three marketable themes, that is, the celebrity self, the entrepreneur self, and the ordinary girl self. First, in the celebrity self, wanghong girls draw on the market logics of the entertainment industry by imitating mainstream celebrities: they highlight their glamorous appearance, adopt aspirational lifestyles, and undertake social responsibility. The second self-branding strategy is wanghong girls' structural transformation into entrepreneurs. By using the postfeminist rhetoric of professionalism, industriousness, and independence, wanghong girls reject self-doubt, and emphasize the performance of a particular kind of upbeat and resilient womanhood. The third branding strategy is wanghong girls' construction of an 'ordinarygirl' persona: they emphasize their rapport with viewers, construct a cheerful self-image, and return to traditional family roles. Their construction of ordinary girl image—seemingly irrelevant to promotion— can prevent their videos from becoming a hard sell, adding a sense of authenticity to their social-media brands. Compared with previous studies on micro-celebrity and self-branding, the study reveals four unique features of wanghong girls' self-branding discourse in contemporary Chinese social contexts. In terms of the socio-economic context, in the emerging wanghong economy, wanghong girls' socially mediated entrepreneurialism challenges conventional Chinese assumptions about male-dominated entrepreneurialism. Their self-branding strategies are driven by the neoliberal ideology, which involves the extension of capitalist market principles into people's daily life. In terms of the socio-cultural context, the study recognizes the influence of postfeminist culture in China. By using the postfeminist rhetoric, wanghong girls on TikTok give a refocus on their female bodies and self-empowerment. In terms of the social-political context, wanghong girls' branding practices dovetails with and conforms to the Party­state's ideologies. Finally, in terms of socio-technical context, the study identifies four basic affordances of TikTok (i.e. editability, portability, relatability, and multimodality) that shape wanghong girls' digitalized identities. In sum, this study provides new understandings on wanghong girls' commercialized identities and how they are shaped by the complex social contexts in contemporary China. Methodologically, it provides an explicit framework that can capture the combination of multimodal resources that wanghong girls use in their video-sharing practices, which can be applied to analyzing the multimodal constructions of professional identities and corporate identities in other contexts.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: restricted access

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