Narrowing my field site

On a general level, the media niche that I am interested in involves content about Chinese culture and language to serve my Mandarin language learning. Not realising that the goal for this week is to narrow my media niche, in last week’s blog post, I have tried to make my niche more specific by discussing Li Ziqi’s content as a topic of interest of mine. Thus, today’s blog post will be expanding on my previous post by investigating Li Ziqi’s content in further details and map the potential field site for my final ethnographic project.

In ethnography, a field site is defined as ‘the stage on which the social processes under study take place’ (Burrell 2009, p.182). A field site is not limited to a physical geographical location. Instead, it can be visualised as a ‘network of fixed and moving points, including spaces, people and objects’ (Burrell 2009, p. 189).  Based on the lecture material and individual research, my field site could be visualised as follows:

In my previous blog post, I have discussed several social media sites on which Li Ziqi owns an official account. Through further research, I found that Li Ziqi also uploads her videos to Kuaishou, a direct competitor of Douyin. Li currently has 8.9 million followers on Kuaishou. She also has 2.7 million fans on Meipai, the app Li uploaded her videos to when she first started making them in 2015.

Li Ziqi has managed to create a brand name for herself and currently owns an official shop on Tmall selling instant and pre-packaged food. These products are produced by other food manufacturers and then branded under Li’s name. The exquisite packaging and association with Li, however, ensure the popularity of such products among consumers.

Screenshot of Li Ziqi’s Tmall shop. Link: https://bit.ly/33ZKIUA

My previous blog post also mentioned an online English retail website that is associated with Li Ziqi called Liziqishop.com. However, several past customers (1, 2) claim that this online shop is fraudulently located in Korea and has no affiliation with Li. This claim is corroborated by a blog post by Rong Ai. The post features a short interview transcript with Li’s assistant and information suggesting Li is only selling her merchandise to national and overseas customers via her Tmall store.

Li Ziqi’s social media accounts and video comments indicate that she has attracted a large fanbase both within and outside of China. Li’s fans and audiences have created media spaces named after her to interact with one another, as well as media content that is relevant to Li. Notably, a private group called Liziqi of more than 118,000 members exist on Facebook (as of 14/08/2020). A subreddit with 725 members called r/liziqi can be found on Reddit. A search on Youtube will display videos of various languages, most prominently English and Chinese, about Li Ziqi. The topics of such videos range from discussing her background, appreciating her talent to replicating Li’s cooking recipe and reviewing Li’s branded food products.

Screenshot of search results involve Liziqi on Youtube

For my ethnographic project, I am contemplating examining comments by Li Ziqi’s Chinese and international audiences on her videos to understand how both parties view Li’s content. Even though this research topic is not finalised yet and I have not found much scholarly research on this particular media niche, I am excited about what this research project brings and what I could bring to the project. I grew up in Vietnam, a country whose culture is historically influenced by that of China. Therefore, my cultural background of being both relatively foreign and familiar with Chinese culture will help me better understand the experiences of Li’s Chinese and overseas fans.

Note: Post last edited on 04/09/2020

Reference list

Burrell, J 2009, ‘The field site as a network: a strategy for locating ethnographic research’, Field Methods, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 181-199.

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