Dr Meng's main research interests lie in communication governance and media production, both of which are examined in the context of globalization and technological shifts. There are three strands in this research: 1) What are the institutional responses to the challenges brought by new communication practices such as disturbance to political control and subversion of the conventional business model; what are some wider ramifications of such responses? 2) How have the institutional arrangements of media production changed in response to the local and global conditions and how the change affects the content being produced. 3) Media production at the grass-root level. How citizens exploit the opportunities afforded by digital technologies to expand their cultural and political participation, which, in different social contexts, may be constrained. These lines of research are connected by a general inquiry into the power dynamics operating at the macro- and micro-levels in communication networks.
Within the first research theme, Dr Meng has worked on copyright regulation in China and the UK, focusing on how copyright law functions as a form of control in the struggle toward a new, global communication order. Her PhD thesis was on the development of Chinese copyright policies. Based on her examination of the power negotiations among transnational organizations, the Chinese state, the local copyright industries, and the average Chinese citizen, she demonstrated how the copyright legitimacy is established and problematized in the Chinese context, and how post-WTO copyright governance is affecting access to information in China. As part of the LSE Media Policy Project, Dr Meng has co-authored a policy paper critiquing the 2010 UK Digital Economy Act, in which file sharing was identified as the primary threat to the development of the creative industries and gave Internet Service Providers (ISPs) more power and responsibility to curtail peer-to-peer file sharing. The paper questioned both the underlying assumptions and the pragmatic measures set out in this legal document, which will have a significant impact on the communication environment in digital networks.
Under the second theme, Dr Meng has looked at the political economy of media industries in China. She addressed how the combined force of the state and the market is not only shaping the output of Chinese media industry, but also constructing a set of discourses that oft-times reinforce political control and social exclusion. For example, in her analysis of the phenomenon of Super Girls – a reality show in the American Idol format – from the perspective of media spectacle, she argues that the show is an indication of how far China is from democracy rather than how close it has come to.
Within the third research theme, Dr Meng has examined the empowering potential of digital networks in new communicative practices, and the obstacles to this empowerment. For example, in her research on the political significance of online parodies on the Chinese Internet, she proposed a cultural approach to Internet-mediated political communication that emphasizes discursive integration and the mutual constitution of communicative activity and subjectivity. A recently completed project on peer production communities in China is another attempt to capture the dynamics between structure and agency on the Internet. The project examines Zimuzu, which are Internet-based subtitle groups that translate foreign media content and share them via peer-to-peer networks. Using data collected through face-to-face interviews and online ethnography, she examined how the power relations operating at different levels configure the motivation and subjectivity of participants, the coordination of information production, and also the tensions between Zimuzu, the Chinese state and the global media industries.
Dr Meng's future research will continue to address questions such as: How the tensions between the old regulatory model and the new communication activities unfold in different contexts? How mainstream media industries cope with the changing social norms and consumer behaviour related to media consumption in digital networks? What is the mediating role of digital technologies in constructing the subjectivity of users, opening up a new communicative space, and offering counter-hegemonic discourses?