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1Monash University Malaysia, Malaysia; 2University of Technology, Sydney; 3National University of Singapore; 4Queensland University of Technology; 5Nottingham University; 6Deakin University
In recent years WhatsApp has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing platforms. Founded in 2009 by two Yahoo former employees, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014, and is now the preferred app in more than 100 countries around the world (Sevitt, 2017). With particularly high penetration rates in the Global South, WhatsApp supports sending and receiving text, photo, video, and voice calls, and it originally proved attractive in these markets because it offered a cheap alternative to SMS and conventional voice calls, and for broadcasting public service and corporate messages (Pereira & Bojczuk, 2018). Within the broader Asia region, uptake of WhatsApp has been particularly pronounced in South East Asia, especially Malaysia and Singapore, the social implications of which are only just beginning to be documented in scholarship.
This panel presents a series of papers that explore the potentials and challenges open up by different uses and affordances of WhatsApp. The papers are linked to one another through their focus on WhatsApp, and they aim to complement one another by studying the app from distinct methodological and thematic perspective, ad to address key questions that as yet remain unexplored. How safe is WhatsApp for activists keen to avoid the eye of the state? To what extent does WhatsApp’s place in a particular circulatory field – of hoaxes and misinformation – alter the contours of activist socialities? How can scholars crack open the opacity of closed groups on encrypted apps, in order to study them?