Negotiating exclusion in a digital age: Everyday social media practices among Chinese student-migrants in Australia

Xinyu Zhao1

1 School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria 3125,

This research examines the intersection of social media practices and everyday experiences of social exclusion and inclusion in Australia. Specifically, it interrogates how the Chinese student-migrants in Australia, as a particular group of “temporary” migrants, adjust, negotiate and challenge their experiences of exclusion through the use of social media in their daily lives. Recent scholarship on the connections between emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social exclusion problematizes the often over-optimistic conclusions that foresee a future of social inclusion through access to technology; instead, it argues for the varied ways people use these new technologies and the contingent social implications they generate. This research, therefore, focuses on the complex ways Chinese student-migrants integrate social media into their everyday lives in Australia and the subsequent impacts on their experiences of social exclusion and inclusion in different aspects of life.

Theoretically, the study adopts a practice-based approach towards social media, which places specific focus on people’s actual “online doings”. It calls for a contextualization of social media practices through the everyday experiences of social exclusion and inclusion and for a further exploration of the social implications of these practices on daily life. Methodologically, digital ethnographic methods, including online participant observation, photography and in-depth interviews, are adopted to seek a holistic and nuanced understanding of the role of social media in the Chinese student-migrants’ lived experiences in Australia.

Keywords: Chinese student-migrants, social media, social exclusion, social inclusion, practice, everyday life, digital ethnography


Xinyu Zhao is a PhD student at Deakin University. His research interest lies in the intersection of transnational student migration, social ex/inclusion and new media. Educated in China, Xinyu received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Renmin University of China where he was a member of the Australian Studies Centre for three years during which he organised and participated in events promoting Australian literacy in China and enhancing China-Australia relations. He was a participant and Foundation for Australian Studies Fellow at the 2014 Australia China Youth Dialogue. He is now Partnerships Director at the Australian Federation of International Students.