How Spatial Proximity Matters in the Encounters between Strangers: Urban Chinese Young Adults and Their Use of WeChat

By Yuzhu Peng.

Published by Journal of Communication and Media Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Many recent mobile-based social networks (MBSN) incorporate location-based stranger social plug-ins (SSPs), facilitating users to interact with strangers who live nearby. This raises issues regarding how spatial proximity matters in the encounters between strangers on MBSNs. This article presents an original study of how urban Chinese young adults use WeChat (the most popular MBSN in China) to interact with strangers. The original data were gathered through a year-long netnographic research, comprising digital technology-assisted observations and individual interviews with nineteen Chinese college student participants. Through the study, I uncover how the design of WeChat transforms spatial proximity into an affect that contextually generates social propinquity between strangers. This encourages urban Chinese young adults to interact with close-by strangers, challenging civil inattention which has been extensively observed in urban spaces. The outcomes of the research provide a glimpse of how MBSN users navigate social encounters with strangers in urban cities.

Keywords: Spatial Proximity, Social Propinquity, Mobile, Social Media, WeChat, Urban Space

The Journal of Communication and Media Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.1-16. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 708.229KB).

Yuzhu Peng

Ph.D. Candidate, Media Culture and Heritage, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Newcastle University.