LIZIQI AND CHINESE RURAL YOUTUBE VIDEOS: SCOPING A GENRE
Keywords:Chinese rural YouTube videos, algorithmic recommendation, individualization, grounded theory
With Chinese rural village videos and their followers proliferating exponentially on YouTube, these influencers have been empowered by digital technologies. Hence, it is important to scope the genre of Chinese rural YouTubers and analyze rural Chinese videos because the genre has aroused cultural, economic, and societal influence. At present, the most popular and globally prolific Chinese rural influencer on YouTube is Liziqi (李子柒). The Chinese government has sought various collaborations to leverage on the global scale of her internet celebrity. This article aims to map out the emergent genre of Chinese rural influencers on YouTube and consider how they empower themselves with internet technologies and use the internet to gain independence on YouTube. While independence is frequently assumed to be about progressive politics, in the context of China, it can also reveal an attachment to individualization. This study relied on YouTube’s algorithmic recommendation of videos to understand how the platform ‘categorizes’ and ‘promotes’ related content to viewers.We manually amassed a corpus of 3480 video links from 205 channels in February 2021.Guided by grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss 2017), we closely surveyed various elements of 5 videos from the top 5 subscribed channels. We present three preliminary findings in this abstract. First, the genre of Chinese rural YouTube videos is constituted by some necessary elements in the video content.Second, we found these YouTubers engaged with themes of rurality, nostalgia, orientalism, exoticism, and commodification in the videos.Third, we found that Chinese rural YouTubers use digital technologies to empower themselves.