Provincializing “web traffic”: data imaginaries and vernacular construction of liuliang in China

Sheng Zou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This article dehomogenizes the concept of “web traffic” through a keywords informed approach. It attends to how, in China, the term for “web traffic,” liuliang (流量), is utilized in rich and creative ways. Instantiating bottom-up epistemic practices, the taxonomies, collocations, and wisdom related to liuliang reveal alternative and locally relevant ways in which people imagine, apprehend, and deal with digital media and data in everyday life. They unleash a set of reinvigorating vocabulary for the theorization of web traffic—liquidity, manipulability, portability, socio-spatial differentiation, ideological valence, and mystified power, among others. These new lenses enrich a genuinely global understanding of digital media, enable those in the Global North to comparatively rethink their taken-for-granted experiences of datafication, and democratize the making of media knowledges by addressing the inequality between the Global North and South(s), between experts and non-experts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-227
Number of pages7
JournalCommunication, Culture and Critique
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications

User-Defined Keywords

  • data imaginaries
  • digital China
  • liuliang
  • non-western algorithmic culture
  • web traffic


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