Dis/Locating Audience: Transnational Media Flows and the Online Circulation of East Asian Television Drama

Xiaochang Li

Xiaochang Li

It is commonly accepted that media and communication technologies play pivotal roles in thecomplex processes of what is broadly termed “globalization.” The increasing speed, volume, andscale of transnational circulation has been one of the most dramatic development in the media landscape, creating what Appadurai has dubbed global “mediascapes” that are reshaping the way we understand cultural formation. While the rise of massive global commercial media enterprises leads to renewed discussion of the dominance of the “West” upon the “Rest,” the increasing portability, transmitability, and reproducibility of media has helped to generate a grassroots globalization of migrant populations who circulate and engage with media from the “homeland,” creating deterritorialized social imaginaries that transcend national boundaries.

In examining the flourishing online fandom around the circulation of East Asian television drama, however, the established models of transnational media audiences prove insufficient. With the emergence of internet technologies, these mediascapes have now become networked, increasing the visibility and complexity of transnational media flows and the audiences around them. No longer are we seeing transnational media flows through only commercial markets or diasporic audiences seeking to connect with a virtual “home.” In the online circulation of East Asian television dramas, fans with a broad range of cultural, ethnic, and national backgrounds are consciously working to shape audience engagement with these transnational television texts through fansubbing, content aggregation and curation, and the production of vast reservoirs of information, discourse, and meta-data that is constantly being expanded. More importantly, they are doing so publicly, collaboratively, and outside the domain of commercial television markets. enabling individuals to participate in the selection, (re)production, and circulation of texts and images that shape the very social imaginaries they inhabit.

This work draws on insights from work on globalization, diasporic media use, fan and audience studies, and new media and employs various ethnographic, textual, and theoretical strategies and stances in an effort to illuminate key dimensions of these collaborative grass routes of transnational media. What manner of cultural encounters are taking place within the interplay between diasporic conditions and fan practices? How do the circulation and consumption practices afforded by new media technologies inform, and can in turn be informed by, the conditions of global media audienceship? From there we may begin to remap some of complex social, technological, and textual entanglements of cultural negotiation in an increasingly globalmedia age.

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