S18-02 08

Cultural Stereotypes as Communicative Strategy in Entertaining User-generated Content on Social Media: A Case Study of Social Media Influencers


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Yiheng WangUniversidad de Cádiz
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Milica NalićUniversidad de Cádiz


Since social media formed an inseparable part of everyday life, social media influencers have emerged as new force of Key Opinion Leaders in shaping the public opinion (Abidin, 2021; Lewis, 2020; Li & Feng, 2022) and disseminating knowledge and cultures through alternative solutions and creative content of entertainment (Galetti & Costa-Pereira, 2017; Riley, et al., 2017, Riley, et al., 2021; Yan, 2023).

As education in languages and cultures is transformed into an increasingly profitable practice with less focus on its value for social improvement, the commodification subject to market values seems imminent in their production and distribution (Federici, 2007). Studies show that their production does not always disseminate positive content and can be problematic and offensive for viewers, with risks of belittling and normalizing the radical social issues, such as racist mocking in stereotypical representations of other cultures on social media in the consumption and transmission process by the content consumers (Liu, 2021; Magsino, 2020).

Therefore, this research aims to carry out a study of social media influencers regarding the adoption of cultural stereotypes as communicative strategy in their content, and their role in the position of intercultural mediators with potential on social media. The questions this research would like to raise are the following: 1) what level of impact does the content reach? 2) what are the characteristics of the cultural portrayals and stereotypes represented based on race and ethnicity in the studied content? 3) what is the feedback of the content from the consumer and what potential risks does it carry?

Considering the importance of citizens participation in the communication process, theoretical perspectives of communication for development and social change (Servaes, 2002; Marí, 2020), alternative communication (Navarro-Nicoletti, 2021; Wang & Navarro-Nicoletti, 2023), cultural and postcolonial studies (Gramsci, 1970; Hall, 1996; Shome, 2016) and communicative practices in education (Korsgaard, 2017; van Dijck & Poell, 2018) are included.

Case study as methodology is implemented, for its possibility of conducting the research in their real context with detailed variations based on an inductive process and a replication logic (Stake, 1995; Thomas, 2011; Yin, 2014). Several short videos of Instagram influencers have been selected as study objects, in which the contents are jokes with stereotypes of people from different countries. Regarding communicative strategy adopted in the videos, the narrative and the stereotypical representation of each persona are considered. Moreover, to observe the feedback, the comments left in the videos are analyzed.

In the preliminary results, a high level of affection among the viewers has been observed based on the comments and the number of likes, which confirms the creative and attention-drawing effect by adopting entertainment and stereotypical jokes in the content. Nevertheless, debates and shitstorm on racist critiques of the stereotypical representation of the personas are examined, too, which hints on the ambivalence of adopting entertainment, and risks of abusing entertainment in communicating and manifesting cultures, especially by mocking with stereotypes.

Preguntas y comentarios al autor/es

Hay 08 comentarios en esta ponencia

    • profile avatar

      Graciela Galán Torres

      Comentó el 11/12/2023 a las 15:41:08

      The research is interesting since it makes visible the impact that social media has had on people. I consider that the challenge is that people can select the information that it provides in the face of so much information that exists today.

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        Milica Nalić

        Comentó el 12/12/2023 a las 18:13:34

        Dear Graciela,
        Thank you for your kind words. We are happy to hear you found the work stimulating.

        Yiheng & Milica

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      Nieves de Mingo Izquierdo

      Comentó el 30/11/2023 a las 08:41:57

      Thank you for your presentation. It has helped me to realize that there are other stereotypes functioning in some content I have watched on social media. Nowadays, there are several content creators (in TikTok or Instagram) that not only portray national or gender stereotypes but also age stereotypes. They stress the superior qualities of those brought up during the eighties in Europe or The USA, they are shown as more resilient, more able to adapt, and better qualified to face difficulties in life in contrast to those born in the 2000s. Have you considered working on this topic as well so that you could open the scope of your study?

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        Yiheng Wang

        Comentó el 30/11/2023 a las 10:42:18

        Dear Nieves de Mingo,
        Thank you very much for your interest in our research. And we cannot agree more with you that such insertion and mocking of stereotypes in UGC on social media are everywhere in all aspects and for all social groups. We believe its important to observe these phenomena for the further development of both fields of communication and culture study, as the digital age has also brought us into a new media environment with emerging cultures of new digital native generations. So yes, it's a good perspective of our framework, and we'd like to contribute more to a wider scope in the future, as you said.
        Thank you again for your comments, we're glad to communicate with you.

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      Elsa del Carmen Villegas Morán

      Comentó el 29/11/2023 a las 22:44:14

      Hello Yiheng and Milica
      What are your proposals to limit the negative effects produced by stereotypical racial content in the media?

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        Milica Nalić

        Comentó el 30/11/2023 a las 10:09:18

        Hello, Elsa. Thank you for your interest in our research. We believe that social media in itself is nearly impossible to control, due to the incredibly large amounts of content produced every day, but also the fact that they are privately run and more often than not do not report to external policies. So, in order to limit the negative effects of such phenomena, we should look to educating people in democracy and cultures from a young age, as future citizens with critical thinking mechanisms, able to question the media content they consume. I hope we have answered your question. Best

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      Lina Maria Manrique Patricia Villanueva

      Comentó el 29/11/2023 a las 16:00:20

      Hello, Yiheng & Milica: thanks for share your research results.
      Do you consider it is problematic that public opinion is built through influencers or should it be understood as a natural phenomenon that arises from technological evolution? Does humor play a relevant role or is the intention discriminatory in itself?

      • profile avatar

        Yiheng Wang

        Comentó el 29/11/2023 a las 17:13:57

        Dear Lina,
        Thank you very much for your interest in our research.

        It's a fascinating question that you ask. In our opinion, it is problematic, especially through what kind of influencers, what kind of public opinion, and how these influencers build or affect public opinion. Meanwhile, we think technological evolution has enhanced such phenomena in the aspects of competition for attention and efficiency of dissemination. Yet, it's not naturally and only because of technological evolution.
        Taking the case we studied as an example, the creator did succeed in communicating different cultures and entertaining his audience by mocking cultural stereotypes. However, such action risks the possibility of amplifying and strengthening stereotypes at the same time, especially some stereotypes that may be generated from negative perceptions due to various reason of that culture, such as historical wounds or social issues, or bad behavior of a minor group that cannot represent all their people. From this perspective, such stereotypical humor may cause offense to people of that culture, and because of the nature of entertainment, it reduces the seriousness of social issues such as discrimination. This is more about how the influencer perceives and interprets some cultures and his or her knowledge of the culture, especially the ethics in communication, than the result of technological evolution. This also answers part of the second question of yours, that humor is relevant for better communication between different cultures, but how, and when you do it, whether you are aware of the differences between stereotypes of prejudices and those of negative perceptions like discrimination.
        So, we cannot say that the intention is discriminatory itself, as people may not know it or don't know it well, so they do it only based on their experiences and perceptions. But, it is important to consider that culture also reflects ideologies on a certain level. This is another reason that causes stereotypical humor to be problematic.

        We hope we have answered your questions. And if you have more doubts, feel free to let us know, we are glad to keep the communication with you!


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