(Un)civil Society in Digital China| Wenming Bu Wenming: The Socialization of Incivility in Postdigital China

Gabriele De Seta


This article reviews theorizations of civil and uncivil society and highlights their underpinning in the ideal of civility, then introduces the Chinese concept of wenming [civilization] and outlines a history of what is considered bu wenming [uncivil] on Chinese online platforms. It then juxtaposes these definitions to a series of ethnographically grounded snapshots of media events and user interactions revolving around uncivil media practices. Drawing on firsthand accounts of the harassment of a foreign social media celebrity, a “Sticker War” between nationalist publics, a group chat about patriotism, and a BBS discussion of online incivility, the author argues for a shift from the prescriptive definitions of online civility and incivility to the situated understanding of how forms of uncivil sociality are articulated by digital media users in relation to various everyday practices, behaviors, and events.


China, digital media, incivility, media practices, wenming

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