Social Media Influencers as Conduits of Knowledge in Australia and Asia

The researcher

Dr Crystal Abidin is Senior Research Fellow/ARC DECRA Fellow in Internet Studies at Curtin University, Research Fellow with the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University, and Affiliate Researcher with the Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping University. She is a digital anthropologist and ethnographer of vernacular internet cultures, and researches young people’s relationships with internet celebrity, self-curation, and vulnerability. Crystal has been studying the Influencer industry in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Nordic since the late-2000s. Her books include Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online (2018), Microcelebrity Around the Globe: Approaches to Cultures to Cultures of Internet Fame (2018, co-edited with Megan Lindsay Brown), and Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures (forthcoming December 2019, with Tama Leaver and Tim Highfield, Polity Press).  Crystal is listed on Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia (2018) and Pacific Standard 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 (2016). Reach her at

The project

This project is an individual grant hosted at Curtin University, and is funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) (Australia), July 2019–June 2022. The project is also supplemented and extended with support and funding by Curtin University, July 2019–June 2024.

The project aims to evaluate how social media Influencers can become conduits to communicate information among young people between Australia and East Asia. As icons on the internet who are experts in holding attention and amplifying content, Influencers have expanded from being mere commercial enterprises to being conduits of public service information by reaching wide, diverse, and sometimes marginalized youth audiences with important socio-cultural messages. This study will glean lessons from leading Influencer ecologies in East Asia (China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan), to understand how we can use internet-native communication formats to improve inter-cultural knowledge and relations in Australia.

This study will offer a framework for examining the Influencer industry in Australia based on expert economies in East Asia. Its analysis of young people’s internet cultures will generate new knowledge on how information circulates and is received in innovative communication formats between young Australians and young East Asians. The study informs how young people in Australia can improve their inter-cultural communication skills, how community groups can improve inter-cultural integration, and how businesses and policy makers partner with Influencers to amplify information.

Fieldwork dates
(continuously updated)

July 2019: Hong Kong
August 2019: Shanghai, Sydney
September 2019: Canberra
Q4 2019: Seoul, Tokyo
Q2 2020: Hong Kong, Shanghai

In planning:

Publications in planning

[1] A review of the history of Influencers in Australia, Australian media representations of Influencers, and the impact of social media Influencers on print media.

[2] A survey of the culture of Influencer agencies in East Asia, practices of Influencer communications in the Asia Pacific, and the role of East Asian Influencers in building community among East Asian migrants in Australia.

[3] A study of inter-cultural communication between East Asians and Australians, working towards a theory of Asia Pacific Influencers, inter-cultural learning, and the generation of attention on the internet.

Further information

Curtin University press release here.
Academic publications here.
Press mentions here.


If you would like to get in touch, please reach Crystal at,, or @wishcrys. Alternatively, please feel free to pass on this information to interested parties.

This page was last updated on 28 August 2019.

%d bloggers like this: