CfP Special Issue: The Platformization of Chinese Society

Special Issue of Chinese Journal of Communication: The Platformization of
Chinese Society

Extended Abstract Submission Deadline: July 1, 2017
Full Paper Submission deadline: February 28, 2018

Guest Editors: Jeroen de Kloet, Thomas Poell, Zeng Guohua

Full text:

We are currently witnessing a fast process of platformization of Chinese
society. Social media, as well as platforms for collaborative consumption,
are emerging as new power players that challenge older institutions and
disrupt economic sectors like news, hospitality, and transport. Yet, in the
light of omnipresent government regulation and intervention,
platformization presents us with a very different set of problems and
questions than in the West. In the same way, we need to critically
interrogate the seemingly ‘natural’ connection between online platforms and
‘global capitalism’, which has been theorized through the notion of
‘platform capitalism’ (Smicek, 2016). Again China presents an odd case, as
it is hard to read China as a capitalist society (Nonini, 2008). Against
this background, the aim of this special issue is to critically engage with
the platformization of China, using China as a method (cf. Chen, 2010) to
interrogate, complicate, and complement current research on the global rise
of the platform society (van Dijck & Poell 2015). We thus ask in this
special issue: what does the platform society mean for China, but also,
what does China mean for our thinking about the platform society?

This special issue aims to empirically scrutinize different platforms that
are currently popular in China. The Chinese process of platformization
appears to differ on at least three crucial dimensions with developments in
the US and Europe. First, there are vital differences in the political
economy of platforms: the ownership structure and business models of
Chinese platforms are different from those in the US. This also has
implications for the ownership of data, raising issues of surveillance,
control and marketing of data (Couldry & Hepp, 2017; Dyer-Witheford, 2014).
Second, vital differences need to be taken into account in terms of the
architectures and affordances of platforms: user and programming interfaces
(and its semiotics), algorithms (what is made visible and invisible), and
infrastructures (how are third parties plugged into the platform ecosystem)
(Hookway, 2014; McVeigh-Schultz & Baym, 2015; Plantin et al., 2016).
Finally, Chinese online platforms appear to be characterized by particular
types of user practices and cultures, which differ from those in other
parts of the worlds (Poell, de Kloet & Zeng 2014; Qiu, 2016). Given that
the societal impact of new technologies is for an important part shaped by
how these technologies are integrated in social practice, these differences
greatly matter.

The contributions we solicit for this special issue will each focus on one
specific type of platform, following a typology based on a preliminary
inventory (see below). We envision contributions that analyze a particular
platform and its role in societal relations through the three dimensions
sketched above. These contributions are expected to build on the fields of
media and cultural studies, software studies and/or platform studies, in
their investigation of one of the following types of platforms:

1.     Public social media (e.g. weibo and douban)
2.     Private social media (e.g. weixin).
3.     News and search platforms (e.g. baidu)
4.     E-commerce services (e.g. taobao)
5.     Media sharing platforms (e.g. youku and tudou)
6.     Transport platforms (e.g. taxi didi and mobike)
7.     Food services (e.g. meituan and eleme)
8.     Dating platforms (e.g. tamtam and blue’d)

Evidently, we will welcome strong paper proposals, focused other types of
platforms as well.


1200-word extended abstracts should be submitted by mail to Jeroen de Kloet
( and Thomas Poell ( by July 1, 2017. The
abstract should articulate: 1) the issue or research question to be
discussed, 2) the methodological or critical framework used, and 3)
indicate the expected findings or conclusions. Decisions will be
communicated to the authors by July 15, 2017.

Full papers of the selected abstracts should be submitted by February 28,
2018. All submitted manuscripts will be subject to a rigorous blind
peer-review process. All accepted manuscripts will be published online
first. The planned printed publication date is an issue of CJC in 2019.

Submissions should conform to the editorial guidelines of the Chinese
Journal of Communication found at under
“Instructions for Authors.”

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