Taiwan as ghost island? Ambivalent articulation of marginalized identities in computer-mediated discourses

Yao-Tai Li, Yunya Song*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the conflicting self-presentations when using the term ‘ghost island’ in Taiwan, a self-mocking way to belittle the homeland. While some view this term as a form of social critique, others consider it to be suggestive of a social malaise affecting contemporary Taiwanese. Drawing on online posts and comments from the most popular bulletin board system in Taiwan, this study combines topic modeling with a discourse-historical approach (DHA) to critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine the constructions of ‘ghost island’ by Taiwanese netizens. A computer-aided content analysis was implemented using Structural Topic Modeling (STM) to identify discourse topics associated with netizens’ discourses on ghost island. Our findings suggest that the images of ‘us’ (the ordinary people) are presented as victims as against powerful ‘others’ (e.g. mainland China and local elites). Specifically, self-mockery was often invoked to project a loser image and marginalized status living on the island, whereas self-assertive narratives were invoked to affirm Taiwanese society’s democracy and freedom. The conflicting narratives – with a mixture of grudge, helplessness, pessimism, hope and pride – point to Taiwanese netizens’ ambivalent articulation of marginalized identities that operates to strengthen affective connectedness and virtual bonding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-306
Number of pages22
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bulletin board system
  • discourse-historical approach (DHA)
  • ghost island
  • loser aesthetics
  • self-mockery
  • Taiwan


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