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Air pollution online: everyday environmental information on the social media site Sina Weibo

Carin Graminius (Lund University Library, Lund, Sweden)
Jutta Haider (Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 April 2018

Issue publication date: 8 May 2018




The purpose of this paper is to explore how information on air pollution is shaped online on an everyday basis, with a particular emphasis on digital devices and digital representations as constitutive of environmental information practices. Furthermore, this research highlights an understudied aspect of air pollution – the digital flow of multimodal representations that citizens encounter and produce in their everyday life.


The information gathering was carried out on an everyday basis during February-March 2017. The study is based on 403 microblog posts from the social media site Sina Weibo, and netnographic fieldwork, including the observation of news, advertisements, and diary writing. The collected data were mapped in clusters based on the interrelations of objects, agents, and activities, and analyzed in depth using qualitative multimodal analysis.


Information enacted through specific socio-materialist configurations depicts air pollution as self-contained and separated from human action. Air quality apps are central in connecting a wider nexus of representations and promoting such perceptions, illustrating the role of digital devices in an everyday information context.

Social implications

The study reveals a schism between Chinese political environmental visions and everyday environmental information practices, which raises questions of how the battle against air pollution can be sustained in the long term.


This study suggests that digital material aspects – inbuilt applications of digital devices and digital representations of objects – are interrelated with physical experiences of air pollution, and thus constitute elements of practice in their own right.



Graminius, C. and Haider, J. (2018), "Air pollution online: everyday environmental information on the social media site Sina Weibo", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 4, pp. 722-740.



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