“O Ever Youthful, O Ever Weeping”: Exploring Youth Empowerment Through Platform-Dependent Creative Labor in China
This study presents “platform-dependent creative labor” as a typology for exploring youth empowerment through the performance of creative labor on Bilibili, the most prevalent Chinese digital entertainment platform among young people. It employs digital ethnography and semistructured interviews to investigate the research question: How does the performance of creative labor on Bilibili affect youth empowerment in China? Findings show that youth empowerment is dynamically achieved through the performance of creative labor on Bilibili in economic, cultural, and sociopolitical terms. However, youth empowerment through platform-dependent creative labor is still faced with multifaceted challenges stemming from capitalist exploitation, stratification barriers, and nation-state censorship in China against the background of marketization, digitalization, and globalization. Overall, I argue that social media can be an empowering tool for the youth as content generators; however, it should be used more cautiously and skillfully.