label r shifted
Session B8
Taiwanese Young People's Political Engagement in Digitally-enabled Social Movements
Gwenyth Wang
Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, UK

This paper aims to explore the notion of citizenship from a new lens which contests the concept and boundaries of the public and private spheres in a digital context. With this aim in mind, this paper will examine several cases of student-led social movements in Taiwan, discuss the resurgence of social movement under the previous Kuomingtang (KMT government) and analyse the implication of the information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social media on citizens during the movements.


Social media has an indispensable role in Taiwan's political landscape as the use of social media is becoming a feature of political and civic engagement for Taiwanese youth. While a lot existing literature already explore the relationship between social media use and political engagement (Callenda and Mosca, 2007; Kavanaugh and Patterson, 2001), there is rather a small amount of research focusing on the gradual impact of social media use on Taiwanese millennial’s political engagement. Even less is known about its role in the emerging digitally enabled social movements and the offline expansion of the movements.


To examine whether social media use help young people’s political engagement transcend the online-offline divides in a hybrid media environment, this paper discusses and analyses Taiwanese youth’s engagement in several major social movements under the Ma Ying-jeou’s administration (2008 – 2016).


As Daniel Bell argues in his The Coming of Post of Post-Industrial Society (1973), science and technology are the core cause of changes in social structure. In many social movements taking place during the previous administration, the young Taiwanese protesters used social media and ICTs to take the movements to brand new phase. Social media became a nascent tool for them to mobilise support, generate momentum, as well as voice their opinion both domestically and internationally. This paper attempts to probe if the engagement of citizens in those social movements has indicated a changing understanding of the public and private sphere in a modern Taiwanese civil democracy.   


To examine how Taiwanese young people's engagement can transcend online-offline divides in such hybrid networks, this paper is complemented and supported by an extensive review of existing literature on citizenship, as well as from interviews and and empirical findings of major social movements which were mainly facilitated by young people’s use of social media. It will then discuss potential impact of ICTs and social media use on the organization processes of social movements, as well as the way activists mobilize and generate momentum. It will also discuss whether the innovative process allows citizens to engage in social movements differently, not just from the perspective of their engagement methods but also from the conceptual level. During the discussion, several theories will be included by the author in an effort to explain the changing characteristics of citizenship and the public sphere.


The main significance of this study will be the efforts made for the documented analysis of major social movements in Taiwan since 2008. With a research method which is mainly qualitative-focused, this paper probes the usage of ICTs by citizens during the social movements, which also demonstrate what has been heatedly discussed and debated by the public in the past eight years in Taiwan.