Intimacies and Digital Technologies: Emotions, Conflicts and Inter-generational Relations in Chinese Liushou Families


Great internal migration caused by the economic gap between urban and rural areas has generated approximately 61 million liushou children who have to stay in their hometowns in rural areas in China. These liushou families primarily rely on digital technologies to achieve family interactions and maintain family relations. Mainstream research mainly explores the impacts of digital technologies on family relations from the migrant parents' experiences and viewpoints, and other family members' voices are often overlooked. In contrast, by adopting an eight-month ethnographic approach in Sichuan Province, using a range of methodological tools including participant observation, interviews, and photo-voice, this research brings together the perspectives of both the migrant parents, liushou children and children's grandparents to explore complex impacts of digital technologies on inter-generational relations among Chinese liushou families. Notably, this research suggests that digital technologies do not have only positive effects as implied by mainstream discourse; instead, digital technologies generate a more complex impact on family interactions and inter-generational relations among these families. This research found that the development of digital technologies, such as the rise of video calling, enables migrant parents, especially migrant mothers, to re-participant in parenting, allowing a sense of co-presence and rebuilding their maternal identities. However, liushou children and their grandparents often show more ambivalent attitudes towards digital technologies, which often generates family conflicts. Hence, by providing viewpoints from different family members, this research provides a more holistic understanding of how inter-generational relations are being reshaped among liushou families by digital technologies. 

Author Information
Kaidong Guo, University College London, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2022
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon