New Teacher in our school, Professor LIAO, Sara Xueting

2018V1Sara2Sara Liao Xueting, Assistant Professor

In the humid summer of 2017, I once again joined the School of Journalism and Communication.  Unlike my journey as an Mphil student back in 2011, this time I would be a faculty member after getting my PhD in media studies at the University of Texas at Austin. I feel blissful and much blessed to be back.

I am now one of the teachers of the newly-founded undergraduate Global Communication program. The program welcomed its first cohort of 21 students last year. They come from diverse backgrounds: South Korea, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, and of course Hong Kong. This is the first undergraduate program in Hong Kong to be offered in collaboration with the School of Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. It provides one-year of study abroad in the U.K., offering students a unique opportunity to experience “global communication” for a prolonged period of time through everyday life encounters, a variety of courses, field trips, media agency visits, and various extra-curricular activities.

As their advisor, I not only meet the Global Communication students during classes, but also have opportunities to gather and chat with them outside the classroom. The downside of being the “first” is that many things are uncertain on a new program. But the students are proactive in communicating and figuring things out. The relatively small size of the cohort helps them to bond and take action together when necessary, creating a sense of comradeship. Being with the students makes me feel refreshed and full of energy, as I can see each unique personality shining through.Some are gentle, some reliable, some goal-oriented, some risk-takers, some foodies, some spiritual, some big on romance and literature, some a have great sense of humor, and all go beyond what is expected.

Teaching a diverse body of students in the Global Communication program is always making me reflect on the changing landscape of globalization and media studies, which benefits my way of thinking and doing research. My research focuses on digital labor, feminism and gender studies, consumerism, East Asian popular culture, and globalization. I use an ethnographic approach and discourse analysis of data collection and analysis. A central concern of my research is exploring gender dynamics in the rapidly-changing media environment, focusing on women who contribute changes to culture in terms of production and consumption that shape our understanding of identity, agency, representation, social structure, and power relations.


Global Communication program BBQ gathering

In my research, I show how the digital generation in China utilizes the Internet and social media to question the patriarchal social structure, mobilize the population, and spark different visions of a nation and alternative feminist futures. As I participate in online communities actively, my observation of and interaction with different groups of people, especially women always inspire me to ask when, where, how and why they participate in and shape digital cultures. This inquiry results in my multiple research projects, such as investigating the identities of women in digital shopping events in China. In these investigations, I examine how social media construct virtual communities to sell dreams of tastes, status and cosmopolitanism, and exploring the roles played by community members who not only consume but also produce information, knowledge, products and affects. My research reveals that digital participation is contingent on the audience’s gender, class, education, and social capital, but the prominent work done by some participants is transforming the online sphere to make some vocal communities visible and opens up space for social change.

In the future, I would like to continue and deepen my research on gender and labor studies, as well as consumer culture, examining the complex process and impact of global media and digital communication on these subjects of study. I am collaborating with one of my colleagues to compare online misogyny in China and South Korea. I am also beginning to analyze the phenomenon of consumer nationalism, in which consumers produce and proclaim their national identity through consumption and non-consumption. I believe my passion and achievement in research will enrich my teaching, enhance my ability to share stories of digital cultures and new media consumption with students, and help them realize and think critically about the role global media play in our lives.

Sara’s Profile