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Empowering or Disempowering? Online Support Among Seafarer-Partners

Lijun Tang
Sociological Research Online 15 (2) 6

Abstract: Past research in sociology and social psychology has revealed two aspects of online support. This mutual support among members of online support groups brings about empowerment as well as produces common values. The interaction between the two, however, has not been explicitly explored. This paper fills in this gap by examining the activities of a group of seafarer-partners in an online support group. It shows that common beliefs and values in groups can make online support, which is supposed to be empowering, serve disempowering purposes. This suggests that online support can produce a tension between empowerment and disempowerment. The finding leads to the conclusion that group values condition the empowerment potential of online support.

Power and Resistance: A Case Study of Satire on the Internet

Lijun Tang and Syamantak Bhattacharya
Sociological Research Online 16 (2) 11

Abstract: Past studies on print and TV satire have revealed that satire can be seen as a site of resistance to power. In light of this, interesting questions can be raised regarding Internet satire: what does the Internet contribute to the resistance and what kind of power relation is played out on this site? Using an example from China, this paper reveals that like its print and TV counterparts, Internet satire reflects a widespread feeling of powerlessness, rather than offering the general public any political power. However, the Internet helps to push the symbolic power of satire to a higher level. This is because it makes satire a tool for the grassroots which facilitates the creation and spread of satirical ideas, and also helps to release and stimulate the enormous reserve of public wit and wisdom. As a result, satire on the Internet has the potential to generate a chain of related satirical work, which can create a satire movement and subject power to sustained shame and ridicule.