Book Reviews

Qin, Abby Youran (2022). What about this blockchain thing? New Media & Society, 24(12), 2763-2770.


Although blockchain has thrust into the mainstream with a plethora of speculative cryptocurrencies and NFTs, it possesses broader usage and implications in the field of information and communication. I start this essay with an introduction to Blockchain and the Law, a comprehensive overview of the technology’s affordance and various applications. De Filippi and Wright have discussed three features – autonomy, resilience, and tamper resistance – that make blockchains both attractive and dangerous. I will add another feature – replicability – and analyse the four features’ manifestations in blockchain-based communication technologies. Then, through a critical review of Magnuson’s Blockchain Democracy, I will demystify the spurious connection between ‘decentralization’ and ‘democracy’. Finally, Regulating Blockchain approaches the technology from a critical perspective. Herian draws on history and dystopian literature to argue that blockchain is just the latest embodiment of neoliberal ideologies celebrating commercialization, market competition, and techno-solutionism. This view has its merit, yet risks over-simplification. I will address Herian’s critique by discussing blockchain’s potential as a civic technology that empowers civil society in face of state and capital.

Qin, Abby Youran (2022). Book Review: The Media Manifesto. Information, Communication & Society, OnlineFirst.


While local communities’ power in fostering healthy democracy has been repeatedly demonstrated by social science research (e.g., Achen & Bartels, 2017; Putnam, 2001), media and communication studies, to a large extent, still harp on mainstream media and giant social media platforms. Scholars fault Silicon Valley for giving wings to fake news and extreme voices, while reminiscing about the good old days when different families sat in front of the television every evening watching the same national news. The Media Manifesto confronts such tendencies. Natalie Fenton, Des Freedman, Justin Schlosberg, and Lina Dencik each write a chapter dissecting current challenges the global media system faces and then jointly propose an action plan to tackle them. They articulate a vision of media and data justice that surpasses both our bleak reality and the gilded old days, a revolutionary imagination of the future and a utopia that can become real.

Qin, Abby Youran (2022). Book Review: The Evolution of the Chinese Internet: Creative Visibility in the Digital Age. New Media & Society, 24(1), 246-251.


Many political communication studies about China focus on a “repressive state vs. resistant society” contrast. In this dichotomy, “the state” always imposes its oppression through censorship and propaganda, while “the civil society” constantly pursues its liberation by expressing dissent. Against this backdrop, in The Evolution of the Chinese Internet, Shaohua Guo presents the “network of visibility” model as a new framework to examine the Chinese political communication landscape. Centering the dynamic negotiations among actors sharing a pursuit of market popularity and content authority, the network of visibility model troubles the “state vs. civil society” dichotomy by allowing scholars to critically examine the roles played by the government, media, internet platforms, and numerous individual players. This approach enables a nuanced depiction of discursive struggles on the Chinese internet and reveals a wider variety of ideological interpellations, such as the neoliberal ideologies of consumerism and social Darwinism, in addition to the cliche of pro-regime propaganda.