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Fan Hu and Li Jiang - Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline

Fan Hu and Li Jiang - Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline

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Published by circ09

As China gradually becomes a country with the largest number of netizens, much academic attention has been drawn to the role that the Internet plays in China’s social transformation by fostering civic engagement, by encouraging opinion formation and expression, by promoting new networking patterns, etc. While much of the research in this area so far has focused on the general population in their home society, the diasporic population in the host society also deserves investigation.

As China gradually becomes a country with the largest number of netizens, much academic attention has been drawn to the role that the Internet plays in China’s social transformation by fostering civic engagement, by encouraging opinion formation and expression, by promoting new networking patterns, etc. While much of the research in this area so far has focused on the general population in their home society, the diasporic population in the host society also deserves investigation.

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Published by: circ09 on May 29, 2009
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06/16/2010

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Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline 1Running Head: Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and OfflineChinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline:Internet Use and Community Participation in Canada and the United StatesFan HuSchool of CommunicationHong Kong Baptist UniversityKowloon Tong, Hong Kong05446392@hkbu.edu.hk Li JiangDepartment of CommunicationCornell Universitylj65@cornell.eduNing WangSchool of CommunicationHong Kong Baptist UniversityKowloon Tong, Hong Kongmena@hkbu.edu.hk Word Count: 6535* Authors are listed alphabetically.All three authors are doctoral students at respective university.
 
Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline 2Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline:Internet Use and Community Participation in Canada and the United StatesAs China gradually becomes a country with the largest number of netizens, muchacademic attention has been drawn to the role that the Internet plays in China’s socialtransformation by fostering civic engagement, by encouraging opinion formation and expression,by promoting new networking patterns, etc. While much of the research in this area so far hasfocused on the general population in their home society, the diasporic population in the hostsociety also deserves investigation.An emerging body of literature is concerned with Internet usage by transnational diaspora(e.g., Hiller & Franz, 2004; Mitra, 2003; Ong, 2003; Parham, 2004; Parker & Song, 2006; Wong,2003). The bulk of it examines the roles of disaporic websites in maintaining and reproducing“old” communities, as well as creating and recreating “new” communities, in terms of shapingsocial, cultural, and political identities and building social networks of diaspora. But less is aboutthe interplay between diaspora’s online and offline life, in other words, the impact of “virtual”communities on “real” communities.Diasporic websites may serve as an important socialization agent for the diasporicpopulation, as they provide information about both home and host societies and they facilitateconnections among diasporas themselves. Prior research has indicated the appropriateness of considering Internet users’ motives and an enriched understanding they can offer for mediaeffects research. Thus, our current study seeks to delineate Chinese diaspora’s motives for usingChinese diasporic websites in North America, and the role of their Internet use in enhancing orinhibiting attitudes towards and behaviors of participating in the offline Chinese communities as
 
Chinese Diasporic Communities Online and Offline 3well as communities in the larger society.Prior research has also indicated that collocated virtual communities are more likely toincrease social capital than distributed ones, as virtual networks that have overlaps with face-to-face networks can facilitate network density and the flow of information (Blanchard & Horan,1998). Considering the fact that the two types of Chinese diasporic websites coexist in NorthAmerica, we take a look at how they function differently for the diasporic population. Thepresent study also aims at comparing the use of Chinese diasporic virtual communities andoffline community participation by the Chinese diasporas in Canada and the United States, as thetwo countries differ in immigration and multiculturalism policies.
Online “Chinatowns”
The traditional brick-and-mortar “Chinatowns” are located in large metropolitan citieslike New York and Vancouver with primarily commercial or tourism concerns. They do notconstitute “ethnoburbs” and other distributed and integrated neighborhoods where Chinese of different origins and social backgrounds actually reside (Kwong & Miscevic, 2005). In contrast,the online “Chinatowns”—burgeoning ethnic Chinese online publications and forums—havebecome important psychological entities for the Chinese diaspora (Qiu, 2003; Yang, 2003;Zhang & Hao, 1999). These websites can be even made available to those living in areas whentraditional ethnic Chinese media are not available.In the cross-cultural adaptation literature, the role of ethnic media has been consideredmulti-faceted. Some have complained that ethnic media could deter the process of cross-culturaladaptation (e.g., Goldlust & Richmond, 1979; Lee & Tse, 1994), while others have argued thatinformational uses of ethnic media could facilitate individual adaptation (e.g., Gudykunst &Kim, 2003).

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