Brainwashing Paranoia and Lay Media Theories in China: The Phenomenological Dimension of Media Use (and the Self) in Digital Environments
Media, Culture & Society, Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 10, 2017
Drawing on the phenomenological tradition, this article focuses on the “lay media theories” that ordinary people rely on to orient their media use. Existing scholarship on certain perceptions users hold about media and their behavioral consequences tends to assume that these perceptions by default rest on a sense of self that is pre-existing and immune to media. My empirical research troubles this theoretical assumption. Analyzing interviews and ethnography in China, I investigate the media practices of certain individuals under the influence of “brainwashing paranoia.” Through their engagements with the information abundance on the Chinese Internet, these individuals had, over time, revamped rather than enhanced their established political beliefs. I argue that, in today’s high-choice environments, users’ lay media theories, especially their conceptions about media in relation to the self, should be taken into account as one major sociocultural factor that moderates or mediates the age-old tendency for selective exposure.
Keywords: Reception Study, Censorship, Interviews, Phenomenology, Self, Internet, Selective Exposure, Lay Theory
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