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Being “Red” on the Internet

Microcelebrity Around the Globe

ISBN: 978-1-78756-750-4, eISBN: 978-1-78756-749-8

Publication date: 19 November 2018


While in common English-language parlance speaking of “online celebrities” encourages the conflation of new forms of famousness with existing discourses on mass media stardom and fandom, the Mandarin Chinese term wanghong, a shorthand term for wangluo hongren (literally “person popular on the internet”), frames the enticing shores of online celebrity through the peculiar lexical domain of a grassroots popularity. The figure of the wanghong has in recent years accompanied the development of social media platforms in China, becoming a profitable profession, an inspirational role model, a morally condemnable by-product of internet economies, and in general a widely debated social phenomenon among local users. Drawing on interviews with more and less successful local online celebrities and discussions with their audiences, this chapter offers an up-to-date portrayal of the various forms of wanghong currently vying for attention on Chinese social media platforms, illustrating how popularity is crafted along with narratives of professionalism and economic aspirations intimately connected to the sociotechnical contexts of contemporary China.



Zhang, G. and de Seta, G. (2018), "Being “Red” on the Internet", Abidin, C. and Brown, M.L. (Ed.) Microcelebrity Around the Globe, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 57-67.



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