WhatsApp — what’s that?

David Clark, David Nicholas, Eti Herman, Abdullah Abrizah, Anthony Watkinson, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Cherifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri, Marzena Świgoń, Jie Xu, Hamid R. Jamali, David Sims, Galina Serbina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this, the second iteration of our continuing ‘Harbingers of Change’ project, over 160 early career researchers (ECRs) from eight countries were questioned about their scholarly communications. Three repeat in-depth interviews were conducted over 2 years of the pandemic to chart changes in attitude and behaviour. This paper provides interview findings (and an extensive literature review) regarding the role played by social media platforms. It was prompted by an initial review of the data that highlighted significant changes in the attitudes and behaviour of Malaysian ECRs, especially in respect to WhatsApp. Data were provided from several open-ended interview questions about social media, a few interviewer prompts for individual platform names, and, indirectly, from ‘mentions’ of individual platforms in answers to a range of questions about scholarly communications. Findings were: (1) 15 platforms were mentioned in respect to a range of scholarly activities, most notably visibility and reach; (2) Twitter (now X) was the most mentioned, by half the ECRs; (3) ‘churn’ is a notable observation, with large gains and losses in mentions occurring between interviews; (4) large differences between countries, with Malaysian ECRs very much leading on the adoption of social media and largely responsible for the rise of WhatsApp, French ECRs showing little interest, and China a different space where WeChat reigns supreme and foreign platforms are blocked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-88
Number of pages17
JournalLearned Publishing
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Feb 2024


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