Mengyang Zhao

About me

I am an Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Politics in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

My interdisciplinary research and art practice center on digital labor, platform economy, and social movements in a global context, with a particular focus on new forms of work, technology, and labor activism under the platform and venture capitalism. 

My doctoral dissertation, titled “The Rise of Platform Game Work in China,” historizes and analyzes the platformization, labor processes, and social implications of the play-to-earn economy in China. It draws upon longitudinal interviews, participatory observation, and archival research conducted from 2019 to 2022 of three major types of platform game work—live streaming, paid boosting, and game companion/coach—that attracted an estimated 7 million workers. The unique positionality of platform game work—which is both game work and gig work—calls into question common assumptions about algorithmic systems, the platform economy, and the future of work. It reveals new circuits of labor control and resistance that are irrevocably inflected by platform ecology, gender, and class. Click here for my academic CV. 

Beyond academia, I use emerging media to engage in discussions of labor, gender, and disability rights. As a member of the Liquid Dependencies Theory (LDT) collective, I co-designed an interactive role-playing (LARP) game called Liquid Dependencies, a gamified derivative of the ReUnion Network that promotes a decentralized care-based society. The game debuted at the 13th Shanghai Biennale in the summer of 2021. The latest game version has been tested in a dozen cities in China, the Netherlands, Finland, and Germany. Move here for my resume. 

I am also a freelance writer, an avid gamer, a rock climber, and a vlogger. Read my Chinese writings on my blog

Photo by Yi Huang
Photo by Zoe Zhao