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Responding to recent calls in sociolinguistics and social semiotics to study the material, technological and embodied features of writing, this article examines Chinese users’ experiences and practices with the emergent technology of bullet comments on Bilibili, a major video-sharing platform and breeding ground for online subcultures. As one of the first studies based on in-depth interviews with its long term users, this article demonstrates that the unique design of bullet comments, by inserting writing into a moving screen, creates multimedia, multimodal semiotic affordances, reinforces “participatory spectacles,” and facilitates powerful multisensory, bonding experiences similar to the (secondary) orality culture. Users’ diverse range of adaptive and creative practices, which resemiotize available linguistic, visual and cultural resources to create new meaning-making possibilities, are analysed. Considering the recent “desubculturization” of Bilibili and its increased interactions with mainstream culture and the state media, this timely study is well positioned to capture users’ observations about this transition, and assess potential impacts on their experiences and writing practices. It is pointed out that the new synergy of youth nationalism and the technology of bullet comments reflects the complex interplay between writing as a technologized social-semiotic practice, and the wider social, cultural and political conditions.
Bibliographical noteThis article has been funded by Research Grants Council, Hong Kong [project code LU23601219].
- Bullet comments
- digital writing
- Chinese social media
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