From ‘Moments of Madness’ to ‘the Politics of Mundanity’: Researching Digital Media and Contentious Collective Actions in China

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become an essential part of contentious politics and social movements in contemporary China. Although quite a few scholars have explored ICTs, contentious politics, and collective action in China, they largely focus on the event-based analysis of discrete contentious events, failing to capture, reflect, and assess most of the political ferment in and around the routine use of digital media in people’s everyday lives. This study proposes a broader research agenda by shifting the focus from contentious events – ‘moments of madness’ – to ‘the politics of mundanity’: the political dynamics in the mundanity of digitally mediated, routine daily life. The agenda includes, first, the investigation of the dynamics underlying the mundane use of digital media, which not only places the use of ICTs in contentious moments into ‘a big picture’ to understand the political potential of mundane use of ICTs, but also reveals ‘everyday resistance,’ or less publicly conspicuous tactics, as precursors of open, confrontational forms of contentious activity. Second, the agenda proposes the examination of mundane experiences to understand the sudden outburst of contention and digital media as the ‘repertoire of contention.’ Third, the agenda scrutinizes the adoption of mundane expressions of contentious challenges to authoritarian regimes, as they allow for the circumvention of the heavy censorship of collective action mobilization. Mundane expressions have thereby emerged as a prominent part of the mobilization mechanism of contention in China. Addressing ‘the politics of mundanity’ will provide a nuanced understanding of ICTs and contentious collective action in China.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)418-432
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Information and communication technologies (ICTs), digital media, contentious collective action, the politics of mundanity, China, repertoire of contention, everyday resistance, experience

ID: 154146383