Slice of life in a live and wired masquerade: Playful prosumption as identity work and performance in an identity college Bilibili

Zhen Troy Chen

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
195 Downloads (Pure)


This article investigates Chinese urban youth’s mediated ‘slice of life’ and playful encounters as part of their identity construction and performance work on Bilibili, one of China’s most influential video-sharing social media sites mediating anime, comics, games and novels. Using a mix-method approach of digital ethnography, participant observation, interviews and data visualisation, this article examines fans’ hermeneutic practices through anime, comic, game and novel prosumption, exemplified by danmaku: ‘bullet screen’, barrage-like comments overlaid on videos. This article argues that Bilibili works as an ‘identity college’ for fans to perform various roles and explore their hybrid identities in a social-hermeneutic engagement process. In particular, the function of anonymous danmaku comments will be closely analysed as it offers a quasi-real-time engagement experience for fans and helps shape fans’ social self. Following a symbolic interactionist tradition, Mead’s ‘generalised other’ and Goffman’s dramaturgical theory are contextualised in the Chinese socio-cultural milieu where fans’ identity performance is regarded as masquerade. Departing from the moral panic rhetoric that Generation Z is ‘amused to death’, becoming ‘infantile and animalised’, or even enslaved by their desires and capable only of ‘cold intimacies’, the findings of this explorative study present a more complex understanding of Chinese youth’s identity work through participatory social media use and networked fandom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-337
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Media and China
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Anime
  • Bilibili
  • Otaku
  • comics
  • danmaku
  • games and novels
  • human becomings
  • identity performance
  • social and transitional self
  • social media
  • symbolic interactionism
  • youth culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication


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