The Fictionalization of People in Cyberspace: A Character Study

HUM:Global Talk! by Guobin Yang, the Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology, the University of Pennsylvania.


In contemporary digital culture, there is an intriguing phenomenon of fictionalizing real persons on social media. Entertainment stars and politicians are always fictionalized in some ways, but ordinary people may also become the object of fictionalization. As a result, they take on features of fictional characters. The circulation of such fictionalized characters on social media has many ramifications. This talk explores the multiple ways in which real persons are fictionalized on social media and how the literary concept of character may be useful for understanding the significance of this digital practice.


Guobin Yang is the Grace Lee Boggs Professor of Communication and Sociology at the Annenberg School for Communication and Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Center on Digital Culture and Society and Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China.

He is the author of The Wuhan Lockdown (2022), The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China (2016), and The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (2009). His current work focuses on social media, narratives, and emotions in everyday activism, digital culture, and pandemic storytelling.


Sign up for the talk

Deadline for registration is 1 May.

The event is part of HUM:Global Talk! series and funded by Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant "To Use or Not to Use? A Relational Approach to ICTs as Repertoire of Contention".