The Power of Space: The Images of 'Factory' and 'Youth' in Kuaishou


This article focuses on the process that factory young workers use video clips to present themselves by combing spaces of factories. The contents created by factory youth in Kuaishou have been chosen as the research object. Kuaishou, a short video social media platform in China, has attracted many young users (87% of Kuaishou's users are from post-Nineties generation(su,2017)) who are from China's third-and fourth-tier cities (previously rural area). Among them, young workers working in factories is a representative group. They use filters and other functions of the platform to make short videos about their lives and work against the background of factory spaces, which are different from those images based on mass media. Therefore, we see more vivid images presented in mobile social media about new workers working in situations that are not tied just with rural land or soil, but with modern equipments under new spaces. Studies on them can reveal how social change effect individual people and how mobile social media provide new stage for people to present the changes.

Studies concerning practices of self-presentation and impression management on social networking sites (SNS) have increased significantly. Goffman’s theories regarding identity and self-presentation, “front stage” and “back stage” presentations have been incredibly prevalent in social media literature (Hogan, 2010). The conclusion drawn from these studies is that through some methods, social media participants present a highly curated version of themselves (Mendelson and Papacharissi, 2010).With the popularity of location-based social media, the concept of 'presentation of place' (Sutko and De Souza, 2011) has contributed to form homophily, bonding, and trust among those who share certain locations and participate in location-based social media. Furthermore, Schwartz and Halegoua (2015) put forward the concept of 'spatial self', which puts emphasis on the mobile practice and individual aggregation of self-presentation in location-based media. “Place” is a type of constructed space, and the practice in it gives new meaning to space. This research will analyze how youth represent or perform aspects of their identity to others via displaying their experience and/or mobility within space and place.

Dongqu Mine, a mining factory in Shanxi Province, China's major coal-producing province, is selected as the research space for the study. The video clips we selected are shot in this area. we analyze visual, audio and content of the those videos. More detailed characteristics are chosen from: (i) types of short video content, (ii) the characteristics of youth and factory, (iii) the purpose and process of creators and (iv) creators relationships with viewers. In addition, the research conducts in-depth interviews with the creators of the short videos to understand how young workers own image interact with factory space and the meanings attributed to those practices. Meanwhile, it also reveals how networked individuals can mobilize new media to make self-presentation with social and cultural meaning that surpasses a standardized mass media image building.