“‘Hidden Youth’: The importance of online networks and technology (inside the bedroom) for marginalised young people in Hong Kong” by Dr Mark Wong, University of Glasgow, 21 February 2019 @ 4pm

4pm, Thursday 21 February 2019
The Boardroom, 29 Bute Gardens, University of Glasgow
This talk presents new critical insights on the sociality of young people in Hong Kong who physically shut themselves in the bedroom and do not go outside for months and years on end. This emerging phenomenon is commonly referred to as “hidden youth” and has become one of the most topical social issues in the Chinese and East Asian contexts in the past decade. This talk will question common interpretations of “hidden” young people as withdrawn from society and challenges assumptions of their self-seclusion and loneliness inside the bedroom. This reclusive depiction will be contested by drawing on recent theoretical debates on social connectedness in the digital age (Couldry and Hepp, 2017, Lupton, 2015). This will be explored with interview data from an original qualitative study conducted with youth “hidden” in the bedroom for 3-48 months in Hong Kong. In this study, hidden youth’s sociality was found to be more nuanced than previously assumed; the young people had contrastingly high levels of online connections with peer, friends and family while having limited face-to-face interactions in offline environments. This paper argues young people can become especially attached to online communities as a reaction to their experiences of social marginalisation. The highly capitalist economy enmeshed with traditional Confucian principles in Hong Kong’s welfare system creates a unique context of work and education precarity and marginalisation of youth. This paper highlights how technology and online networks can play an important role to enable marginalised young people in Hong Kong to feel more connected through emerging digital social structures and networks. This talk will also prompt us to reflect more generally on the impact of technology on urban Chinese society and complexities of sociality in the digital age.
Dr Mark Wong is a Lecturer in Social and Public Policy at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow. He completed his PhD in Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh in 2017. His seminar is based on the continuous work from his PhD research and his recent paper submitted to New Media and Society. Mark has also been interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland, the Sunday Times, and The Times about his work on hidden youth in Hong Kong and Scotland. Mark’s general research interest is on youth and online social connections. He is particularly interested in how online communities enable young people to mitigate experiences of inequality and social marginalisation. He is currently working on utilising data science and social network analysis to investigate youth inequalities in the digital age.

First published: 14 January 2019

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