Session Abstract: The outbreak of COVID-19 has sparked multiple reconsiderations of sociality itself, highlighting the digital as a primary — rather than supplemental — means of maintaining relationships. This inter-area panel examines continued and emerging forms of digital sociality in the wake of COVID-19. The panel considers the localization of digital technologies and platforms, and the diverse ways in which digital affordances are utilized to facilitate certain kinds of sociality. Furthermore, the panel examines the reception of digital practices among various actors, not necessarily limited to the users themselves.
Su argues that recent interventions in digital ethnography meant to address the issue of conducting in-depth social research at a distance occlude epistemic problems for China-centered research. Van Ommen draws from data gathered both before and after the outbreak of COVID-19 to highlight the role of online fantasy games in creating and maintaining social connections among Japanese youth. Liu follows the reassembling processes of contact tracing and risk assessment algorithms in China, showing how social actors and relationships co-constitute the localization and multiplication of the algorithm. Hassel highlights the renegotiations of the role(s) of Social Networking Services and smartphones in the social lives of Japanese youth, utilizing interviews conducted before and during the outbreak of COVID-19.
While featuring China and Japan, the panel aims to foster larger discussions on the affective dimensions of digitally mediated relationships, privacy and surveillance, and notions of space and the “physical.” The panelists also offer reflections regarding the implications of COVID-19 on digital methodologies in the social sciences.
Paper Presenter: Aaron Su – Princeton University
Paper Presenter: Mattias van Ommen – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Chuncheng Liu – University of California, San Diego, Department of Sociology
Paper Presenter: Kimberly Hassel – Princeton University