Sociology Faculty

Zoe Zhao
  • Pronouns she/they/Ta
  • Title
    • Assistant Professor
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Sociology Department
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Rachel Carson College Academic Building, 320
  • Office Hours by appointment
  • Mail Stop Rachel Carson College
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Labor and Social Movements; Digital Media; Video Games, Game Design, Game Studies; Gender Studies; China

Summary of Expertise

I am an interdisciplinary researcher, writer, and artivist of technology, video games, and work in the global context.

Research Interests

Labor, Social Movements, Digital Media, Game Studies, Diaspora, Global China

Biography, Education and Training

Mengyang (Zoe) Zhao is an activist scholar specializing in the intersections of technology, work, and social movements in a global context. Their current book project delves into platform-based video game services in China. Their art practice leverages gamification to reimagine ways of commoning and queering the care infrastructure.

Honors, Awards and Grants

2021-2023 The Center on Digital Culture and Society (CDCS) Doctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

2022-2023 SAS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania

2022-2023 Dissertation Fellowship, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, declined

2023 SASgov Discretionary Funding, University of Pennsylvania, honored as the co-founder of Penn Activism, Media and Education Group

2017-2022 Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania

2023 GAPSA Universal Fund, University of Pennsylvania, honored as the co-founder of Penn Activism, Media and Education Group

2021 Mr. Chi-Chung Yu Award, China Times Cultural Foundation

2021 The OYCF-Chow Fellowship for Field Research, The Overseas Young Chinese Forum

2021 Emerging Sci-Tech Artist Awards, Raiden INST, honored as a member of Liquid Dependencies Theory Collective

2020-2021 Gertrude and Otto Pollak Summer Research Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania

2019 Predissertation Travel Grants, The American Council of Learned Societies

Selected Publications

Zhao, Mengyang. 2024. “‘Ready Worker Two’: Gendered Labor Regime of Platform-Based Game Work in China.” New Media & Society 14614448231222944. doi: 10.1177/14614448231222944.

Zhao, Mengyang. 2023. “Fragmented Control of Platform Game Work in China.” The Economic and Labour Relations Review 34(2):328–42. doi: 10.1017/elr.2023.15.

Zhao, Mengyang, and Kecheng Fang. 2023. “Extending the Research on Digital China: The Transnational Lens.” Information, Communication & Society 26(2):270–85. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2022.2159487.

Zhao, Mengyang. 2021. “Solidarity Stalled: When Chinese Activists Meet Social Movements in Democracies.” Critical Sociology 47(2):281–97. doi: 10.1177/0896920520940007.

Zhao, Mengyang. 2020. “Chinese Diaspora Activism and the Future of International Solidarity.” Made in China Journal 5(2): 97-101.

Zhao, Mengyang. 2019. “Media Freedom and Protest Events in the Global South.” Social Science Quarterly 100(4):1254–67. doi: 10.1111/ssqu.12635.

Selected Presentations

Guest Lectures and Talks:

2023. “Digital Labor in China” at SOCI230: Media, Culture & Society in Contemporary China, University of Pennsylvania

2023. “Net-like Control: Extra-Platform Intermediation in Chinese Video Game Services” at School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong, online

2022. “’Ready Worker Two’: Gendered Discipline of Platform Game Work” at Family and Gender Workshop, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

2022. “Gamification as a Design Method” at DAI x Commons•Art, St. Joost School of Art and Design, online

2022. “’Ready Worker Two’: Gendered Discipline of Platform Game Work” at GSWS Graduate Colloquium Series, University of Pennsylvania

2022. “Technology and Labor” at Social Justice Research Academy, University of Pennsylvania

2022. "A Closer Look at China’s Game Industry” at Hamilton Lugar School Chinese Language Workshop, Indiana University Bloomington, online

2022. “Net-like Control: Extra-Platform Intermediation in Chinese Video Game Services” at Ethnography, Culture, and Interaction workshop, University of Pennsylvania, online

2021. “Platform Game Work in China” at Senior Seminar of Labor Sociology, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, in Chinese

2021. “Doing a Social Science Ph.D. in the U.S.”, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, in Chinese

2021. “Video Game Ban in China” at Sino-U.S. Relations Group Engagement (SURGE), Tufts University, online

2021. “Platform Game Work in China” at International Summer School, Chinese University of Hong Kong, online

2021. “Platform Game Work in China” at Marxist Feminism Lecture Series, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, in Chinese

2021. Writing Processes of “Solidarity Stalled” at Graduate Seminar of Field Methods of Sociological Research, University of Pennsylvania, online

2020. “Global Video Game Industry” at SOCI137: Sociology of Media and Popular Culture, University of Pennsylvania, online

2018/2019. “Chinese Feminist Activism” at SOCI230: Media, Culture & Society in Contemporary China, University of Pennsylvania 

Selected Conference Presentations: 

2023. “Beyond the Binary: Deconstructing Success and Failure in Digital Social Movements through the Lens of Endurance.” with Devo Probol, Brendan Mahoney, and Alejandra Regla-Vargas. Collective Behavior & Social Movements Workshop. Philadelphia, PA.

2023. “Ready Worker Two: Gendered Discipline of Platform Game Work in China.” Global Perspectives on Platforms, Labor & Social Reproduction Conference. Amsterdam, Netherlands.

2023. “Extending the Research on Digital China: The Transnational Lens.” with Kecheng Fang. the 73rd Annual International Communication Association Conference. Toronto, Canada.

2021. “An Uneasy Fusion of Game Work and Gig Work: Platform Game Work in China.” The WORK2021 – WORK II Conference. Online.

2021. “The Rise of Platform Game Work.” AoIR 2021 Doctoral Colloquium. Online. 

2020. “Some Players Are More Equal Than Others: Stratification of Video Game Work in China.” Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Online.

2019. “Solidarity Stalled: When Chinese Activists Meet Social Movements in Democracies.” Third SDSU Conference on Nonviolence and Social Change: Illiberal Democracies East and West. San Diego, CA.

2019. “Geographical Diffusion of Protests: Evidence from China.” with Ye Wang and Han Zhang. 77th Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference. Chicago, IL.

2018. “Media Freedom and Protest Events in the Global South.” 68th Annual International Communication Association Conference. Prague, Czech Republic.

2018. “Radicalizing Social Movements from a Transnational Perspective: Chinese Diaspora Activists and Liberal-Democratic Models of Activism.” Seventh Annual Radical Democracy Conference. NYC, NY.

Selected Exhibitions

2021 Liquid Dependencies at Group Exhibition: “Do Not Black Out” at Shanghai Ming Contemporary Art Museum

2021 Liquid Dependencies at “Unknown Games” at Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art

Teaching Interests

Platform Economy; Technology and Work; Media Activism