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Communications, Drama and Film

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Dr Zizheng Yu

Lecturer in Promotional Media E&R


I am a Lecturer in Promotional Media (E&R). I am the Programme Director of the MA in Social Media and Digital Marketing. I am also the Admission Tutor for Communications. Before the appointment at Exeter, I taught at the University of Greenwich, Cardiff University, and King's College London. I taught a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate subjects in the fields of advertising, PR, media and communication and digital humanities. 

Before entering academia, I worked for one of the biggest real estate companies in China as a Senior Brand Manager; as a Journalist for Chinese Southern Daily in Foshan, and UK Chinese Journal in London; and as a Research Associate for China Current Network. I am the vice-president of the UK-China Media and Cultural Studies Association (UCMeCSA), and also a member of IAMCR, ICA, ECREA and MeCCSA. My previous works can be found mainly in Social Media + Society, Chinese Journal of Communication, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Convergence, Media International Australia, Journal of Consumer CultureInformation, Communication and Society and other peer-reviewed journals. 

Based on my recently published research on Chinese consumers - "Short Video Activism With and on Douyin: An Innovative Repertoire of Contention for Chinese Consumers", I wrote an article for The Conversation - "China: the rise of TikTok sister app Douyin as a powerful consumer tool", which received more than 20,000 views from different regions of the world. This article was also reprinted by different international news organizations like the Channel NewsAsia.

One of my latest research projects “The emergence of algorithmic solidarity: unveiling mutual aid practices and resistance among Chinese delivery workers” has sparked heated debate both inside and outside the academic circle. I was invited to present this research article at the Bonavero Institute for Human Rights at the University of Oxford in June 2023. This research was also reported by WIRED recently: “China’s Gig Workers Are Challenging Their Algorithmic Bosses”.

This research won the @MeCCSA2023 Journal Article of the Year.

I am currently working on two books: 1. A book on consumer video activism in China for Palgrave Macmillan (expected to be published by 2024/2025). 2. Translation project: Hybrid Media Activism: Ecologies, Imaginaries, Algorithms (Chinese edition), Author: Emiliano Treré. Contract signed with China University of Political Science and Law (expected to be published by 2024/2025). 


Google Scholar: Zizheng Yu Twitter: @zizheng_yu384 LinkedIn: @ZizhengYu   Office:  White House, Thornlea, Exeter, EX4 4LA, UK Office Hours: Please email for an appointment.  

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My current research focuses on consumer activism/nationalism, AI/algorithmic resistance, advertising/promotional media, SMP (e.g., TikTok/Douyin), media activism, and digital media practices.    My research is based on exploring consumer behaviour, activism and information and communications technology (ICT), but only as a starting point for further exploring the complex issues regarding the mutual shaping of consumer, media, market, and society.

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I welcome BA, MA and PhD proposals in the following areas and fields of expertise:

  • The intersection between consumer behaviours and digital media (in particular: consumer activism/nationalism, digital activism cultures and media imaginaries)
  • Critical approaches to promotional media (e.g., commercial advertising) and social media in marketing communications
  • Critical approaches to AI/algorithms (in particular: algorithmic resistance, algorithmic media in the Chinese context, such as iQiyi, and Bilibili)
  • Social media platforms (in particular: short-video-based platforms like TikTok/Douyin)
  • Media/Digital activism in the Chinese context
  • Chinese media, politics and society
  • Digital culture and communication, cultural and critical media studies 

If you are considering a PhD in one of the above areas, please feel free to send your research proposal to my email.  

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Copyright Notice: Any articles made available for download are for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the copyright holder.

| 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 |





  • Yu Z. (2020) Douyin (Tiktok) Revolution: Online Short Video Consumer Activism in China, The 4th Meeting of Digital Networks and Activist Cultures, Puc-campinas, (brazil/online), 6th - 8th Oct 2020.
  • Yu Z. (2020) Counterfeit Goods on PDD: The Emergence of the Consumer Sphere in China, 13th CMI Conference: Digital Transformations - Potentials and Challenges, Aalborg University, Denmark, 26th - 27th Nov 2020.


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External impact and engagement

Contribution to discipline

Academic Activities:
  • Reviewer of the New Media & Society
  • Reviewer of the Information, Communication and Society
  • Reviewer of the International Journal of Communication
  • Reviewer of the Celebrity Studies
  • Reviewer of the Asian Journal of Technology Innovation
  • Reviewer of the Networking Knowledge (International Peer-review Academic Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network)
  • Reviewer of the Participatory Communication Research Section for IAMCR 2022.
  • Reviewer of the Participatory Communication Research Section for IAMCR 2023.
  • Reviewer of the Emerging Scholars Network for IAMCR 2021.
  • Co-chair of UCMeCSA Members Research Forum (Online), 7th March 2021.
  • Convener of UCMeCSA Members Research Forum (London), 7th Dec 2019.
  Professional Memberships:
  • Vice President of UK-China Media and Cultural Studies Association (UCMeCSA) since 2021
  • Global Member of the TikTok Cultures Research Network
  • Member of ICA (International Communication Association)
  • Member of IAMCR (International Association for Media and Communication Research)
  • Member of ECREA (European Communication Research and Education Association)
  • Member of MeCCSA (Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association)
  • Executive Committee Member of UCMeCSA, 2019-2020.
  • Member of UCMeCSA, 2018-2019.
  • Research Associate, China Current Network (An alternative media that was once influential in China), 2013-2016.


China: The Rise of TikTok Sister App Douyin as a Powerful Consumer Tool (Top one article, 22,747 Reads by 3 May 2023). The Conversation. 23, March 2023.

  • Chinese people are increasingly using TikTok’s sister app as a way to complain about products and are finding it a powerful asset.
  • Our research shows that Douyin, which is produced by ByteDance the same company that owns TikTok, has become influential in offering Chinese people a way of putting consumer pressure on companies.

Shanghai’s Delivery Drivers — The Unsung Heroes of a Long Pandemic Lockdown. The World. 06, May 2022. 

  • Delivery workers are pretty much the only people on Shanghai’s streets right now. They’ve kept the city running during lockdown, and millions of residents depend on them. But as gig workers, they have fewer labor protections, working long hours under difficult conditions.

China’s Gig Workers Are Challenging Their Algorithmic Bosses. WIRED. 14, March 2022.

  • Food delivery drivers are using platforms’ data-powered systems, mass WeChat groups, and unofficial unions to fight unfair conditions.​

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I am the convenor for the MA module CMMM002 Social Media: Management and Strategy. 

I am also the Programme Director of the MA in Social Media and Digital Marketing

Modules taught

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