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The Internet in China: breakneck growth and activism: jell-o, push ups, alpaca sheep, and human flesh search engines
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The Internet in China: breakneck growth and activism: jell-o, push ups, alpaca sheep, and human flesh search engines


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  • 1. Global Internet Activism Week 9 Between Freedom and Control: Citizen Journalism in China last update: April 8, 2009 Trebor Scholz | LCST 4014 A | Spring 2009
  • 2. Political Activism, Advocacy, and Art Activism week 2 week 1 Access, Censorship, Social Media, and the week 3 Alleged Democratization Citizen Media: from of Society Seattle to South Korea War and Social Media: Serbia week 5 week 4 War and Social Media: Iraq, Gaza week 6 Spring Break week 7 War and Social Media: Counter-publics Iran, Afghanistan in Iran week 8 week 9 Cell phone-enabled Citizen Media in China week 12 activism: Philippines Burma week 11 week 10 Japan, Singapore A Better World in Second Life? week 14 One Laptop Per Child week 13 Cyber Publics in India week 15 Mobilization Trebor Scholz | The New School University | LCST 4014 A | Spring 2009
  • 3. Citizen Journalism in China week 9 March 31, April 2 Required Reading: David Kline and Dan Burstein, quot;Making Global Voices Heard,quot; David Kline and Dan Burstein, Blog! (New York: eds books, 2005) 324-332. Yang, Guobin. quot;Activists beyond Virtual Borders: Internet–Mediated Networks and Informational Politics in China.quot; First Monday. 25 Aug. 2006. 14 Jan. 2009 <>. Trebor Scholz | The New School University | LCST 4014 A | Spring 2009
  • 4. ... networks raise the bar of political control and facilitate participation in protest. Castells (1996) argues that in an age of network society, power functions by exclusion. Networks of resistance may form from both within and without networks of power. ... networks are not only a central source of power, but also of resistance.
  • 5. 1986 - The China Academic Network (CANET) is launched with help from the Universität Karlsruhe in Germany. History of the Net in China October 1990 - The .cn international top level domain for China is registered As China did not yet have direct Internet connectivity, the .cn name server was housed at Universität Karlsruhe. December 1992 - China's first TCP/IP college network was et up at Tsinghua University's TUNET May 1994 - China's first Web server hosted tourism information. May 1994 - .cn is relocated from Germany to China. May 1994 - National Computing and Networking Facility of China (NCFC), a collaborative network of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing and Tsinghua Universities, opens a 64k-bps direct Internet link to the U.S. via Sprint. 1998 Popularization of the Internet
  • 6.
  • 7.
  • 8. Traditional media hope to increase their influence and profit through blogs. Blogs satisfy the information needs of Chinese readers who are new media consumers. tatistics predict that between 2012 and 2015, China’s blogs could have 1 billion unique visitors. Motivations for Blogging in China Citizens enjoy presenting angles on stories that divert from the position that is prevalent in the state media (TV, newspapers).
  • 9. Breakneck Growth
  • 10. Gateways to social media in China The blogware provider Sina positioned itself ahead of other services because of celebrity blogs which attract millions of fans who are introduced to blogging this way
  • 11. Stars from HongKong on Twitter
  • 12. Stars from HongKong on Twitter
  • 13. Breaknecknotable increase in Growth There has been a small but the freedom of speech in China due to the Internet. 253 million Internet users in China (2007) By 2013: 1 billion mobile and 0.5 billion internet subscriptions Only 5% of Internet users who know who to use tools like Tor A Chinese Al-Jazeera?
  • 14. microblogging service taotao
  • 15. China microblogging service Digu
  • 16.
  • 17. It’s hard for filtering agencies to keep up with the explosion of user-created content.
  • 18. The Internet as an environment of social and political control. All video sites were majority state-owned as of February 2008.
  • 19.
  • 20. “Anti-vulgar Internet Crackdown” From the beginning of 2009, China has already announced 6 blacklists of websites criticized for “low and vulgar practices on the Internet” as part of the latest “Anti-vulgar Internet Crackdown” The Chinese government is extending its anti-porn campaign to mobile phone messages
  • 21. Google complicit in censorship search for Tiananmen Square in Google China vs. Google USA‐image‐search‐in‐china‐is‐special/1492/
  • 22. Updates on torture cases, press releases
  • 23. Welcome from Google. We translate popular stories, pictures, & videos from China's internet into English. If you like our blog, please consider subscribing to our RSS feed.
  • 24. Black Internet Cafes The central directives from Beijing regulating Internet cafes that have come in the wake of the Internet cafe fire of 2002 are, like many other central government laws in China, inconsistently implemented at the local level. In December 1998, the first regulations on Internet cafes were issued. They were quite strict, demanding Internet cafes must register with local PSB. In April 2001, a second, more comprehensive set of regulations were issued that had more rules on health and safety. The third set of regulations in 2003 were promulgated by the Ministry of Culture, not the Ministry of Information Industries. Before the cafe fire, the legal norms viewed Internet cafes as being potentially dangerous, morally and physically, while social norms felt otherwise and black Internet cafes proliferated.
  • 25.
  • 26. Accountability Politics
  • 27. Investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang A fist-chop in the throat and surveillance by secret police seems to have put a swift end to the career of China's most popular investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang, but judging from his post earlier this month ‘Zhou Shuguang's understanding of citizen reporters and citizen media', if you were to ask him: “is citizen journalism dead?”, you'd stand a very good chance of being told that bloggers like him can and must “do journalism”, and why. Throw in the way he coldly describes personal accounts as sample specimens below, in addition to making a few criticisms and judgments, and you might just leave seeing citizen media as both an art and a science: As I see it, I'm the most suited to be speaking about citizen journalism and citizen media, as I have, with my simple motives, put into practice what I understand personal media to be. I record things that I think are original and interesting, or things that I think are wrong or need improving upon. As for why I don't focus more on “the finer things,” I always answer as such: “the value of information (advertisements, news or tip-offs) is in its constantly-shifting and novel nature. For example, you know that Zhou Shuguang is a man, or that dogs will bite people; if the information you're giving me are things I already know, is your information of any value to me?” This is why I don't talk nonsense, and only talk things of (eye-catching) value, things I'm willing to take responsibility for.
  • 28.
  • 29. Investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang Documentary in-progress, Working Title: “Citizen Zola” by Stephen T. Maing - Director, editor, cinematographer
  • 30. The Power Equation between State and Society in China -James Chen Today, there are quite a few officials who are feeling more pressured because there are countless eyeballs keeping close watch over them. Now they may not dare to exceed their authority.
  • 31. Internet-mediated Networks •email, BBS forums, websites •knowledge networks •“to have power is to be in the network” •environmental focus
  • 32.
  • 33.
  • 34. Group Think as Obstacle? “The Chinese think collectively. They have no concept of personal space. They are not into individual-type thinking.” Mark Cavicchia in Fast to China (Andrew Ross) p101
  • 35. Accountability Politics Vigilant Internet users spotted news photos of a housing official and posted heated online discussions about his $15,000 Swiss watch and $22-a-pack cigarettes. Official legal channels are often inadequate but Internet vigilantism led to the dismissal of Juigeng. Communist official Zhou Juigeng is under investigation for an apparent quot;lavish lifestylequot; that exceeds his government salary.
  • 36. The Human Flesh Search Engine patches shortcomings of Chinese legal system but also leads to violent vigilantism “Now known as the quot;Kitten Killer of Hangzhou,quot; Wang Jue uploaded a video of herself crushing a kitten to death under her high heels. People identified her location by studying the backdrop to the video and traced the offending pair of stilettos to a purchase made on eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ). The stilettoed murderess eventually issued a public apology, blaming her actions on her devastation following her failed marriage. Both she and the cameraman who recorded the kitten killing lost their jobs.” “Collaboration between the online masses to meet a common goal is known as quot;crowd sourcingquot; in the U.S. But in China it is the sheer scale of the operation--recruits can be enlisted from an online population of more than 250 million--and the people's quot;unusually high enthusiasmquot; that makes the human-flesh-search-engine phenomenon unique, says Xujun Eberlein, an American Chinese author and commentator.” “For Wang Fei, the journey from high-flying advertising executive to jobless national hate figure began with an extramarital affair. His disgrace was absolute and immediate. Rarely is there any other outcome after one becomes a target of the quot;human flesh search engine.quot; “....high-profile lawsuit filed by Wang Fei, the advertising executive who fell victim to a human flesh search engine after his wife's suicide.” Internet-powered manhunts that have achieved notoriety across China “Sheltered behind screen names, people post hateful rants on blogs, upload outrageous videos to YouTube and slander authors on Amazon. For better or worse, the human flesh search engine strips away the layers of digital anonymity.” “Add to these motivations the fact that despite the authorities' strict control over online political content there is a lack of privacy laws in China to prevent people's private details being published on the Web, and the growth potential of the human flesh search engine is apparent.” Chris O'Brien
  • 37. “What a new Internet might look like is still widely debated, but one alternative would, in effect, create a ‘gated community’ where users would give up their anonymity and certain freedoms in return for safety.” John Markoff’s call for the Internet as gated community
  • 38. Information Politics - testimonial -technical (it’s hard argue with a video) - events are first reported online and then in the print media
  • 39. Releasing factual information on the Internet as a witness–bearing act. Citizen reporting of the deadly floods that have devastated many areas in China during this summer's rainy season. “67,000 more people evacuated in Anhui, another 37 dead in and near Chongqing, and that's just this past week.” Blogging 2007
  • 40. China feels the quake online Ever since the massive earthquake in China's Sichuan province, people in the affected region have been updating various websites with news from the ground. Eyewitness accounts and pictures have also emerged on Sichuan forums and bulletin boards. SICHUAN CONNECTS ONLINE Sites previously used for light-hearted social networking such as this food, drink and friendship site for Sichuan now carry banners lamenting quot;Tragedy in Sichuanquot;. The Chengdu Commercial Daily among other sites posts casualty lists from hospitals. MICROBLOGGING THE QUAKE Immediately after the earthquake people across China began to broadcast the tremor on various microblogging services. On Twitter and the Chinese language services Fanfou, Taotao and users across the country registered the earthquake. quot;We just had a massive earthquake. Updates from the earthquake region are still appearing on Twitter's earthquake watch feed. Student blogger and Twitter-updater Est Dan Tu has also been posting his Chinese language updates on the situation in Chengdu. GALVANIZING SUPPORT Appeals have appeared across various forums for people to donate blood for the victims of the earthquake. Microblogger yysr1943 typifies the emotions online with his Chinese language update: quot;50,000 people now killed. How many poor people?
  • 41. Sun Zhigang was detained by police in a migrant detention center; he was severely beaten and died a few days later in police custody. Hundreds of thousands of protest messages appeared on popular sites such as and, decrying Sun’s death and sharing their own experiences of police abuse. One group set up a memorial page to Sun Zhigang on (Chinese officials have suppressed Dai culture and language since t he 1920’s.)
  • 42. Citizen journalism takes off at QQ
  • 43. “Shenyang, literally meaning “the city to the north of Shen River” and capital of the Liaoning province, is touting itself as China’s “next tourist destination.” But whether you are visiting the ancient pagodas of Old City or the official “High-tech Industrial Development Zone” the tourist brochures won’t mention the city’s male and female sex workers who mostly come from poor rural communities in search of talked- up urban opportunities. In partnership with the Ai Zhi Yuan Zhu Center for Health and Education documentary filmmaker Wei Zhang will train male and female sex workers who use the AZYZ center how Education to maintain a blog and upload short video documentaries to share their experiences, opinions, and troubles in order to promote more understanding of the regionʼs sex worker population.”
  • 44.,123.42041&spn=0.089533,0.171661&z=12&iwloc=addr&source=embed
  • 45. Symbolic Politics adding photos to print stories messages that are narrated in the story contradict what you see in the image
  • 46. We tend to think that these movements are squelched via censorship and police pressure. But the situation is far more complicated. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao recently conducted a two hour live chat online with Chinese netizens, answering questions that were both political and personal. “Grandpa Wen” built a great deal of internet goodwill by starting his remarks by declaring, “My mother told me always to be honest, so I will try to be honest and upfront with you guys,” River Crabs (the censors) and answering questions about his skills at cooking dumplings. “no one has managed to organize an opposition party on the web” Rebecca McKinnon posts about the riots became posts about “pushups” Alpaca sheep (the clever bloggers, playing with language) The image, which was quite common in the Chinese blogosphere, is a commentary on censorship, politics, language and, ultimately, on absurdity.
  • 47. site allows citizens to access government information “Chinese premier Wen Jiabao recently conducted a two hour live chat online with Chinese netizens” “Learn to Listen to Public Opinion from the Internet”
  • 48.
  • 49. a loss of control by the government over culture ? Chinese Backstreet Boys
  • 50. Referring to Chinese Internet censorship in the 1990s, Bill Clinton remarked that “trying to control the Internet is like trying to nail Jell-o to the wall.”
  • 51. Soft Power “We must step up the development of the press, publishing, radio, film, television, literature and art, cleaving to correct guidance and fostering healthy social trends,” read section seven, of harmony.” “We will strengthen part two, dealing with building a “culture efforts to develop and manage Internet culture and foster a good cyber environment.”
  • 52. Information Politics - not just about getting factual and technical information out to the public - information rights - IT
  • 53. Chinese TV Coverage of the War in Iraq Li Xiguang’s speech on World Press Freedom Day in 2004 “The Chinese were watching CNN and Rupert Murdoch’s channels. Since the first day of the war, the Chinese government handed over the country’s five most popular TV channels to CNN and Murdoch. All the images, messages and sentiments the Chinese audience got from TV were filtered out through the gate-keepers of CNN and Murdoch’s people.” “Murdoch hired simultaneous translators who live parroted CNN and Fox 24-hour broadcasts for almost two weeks.” “China probably was the world’s only country where anti-war voice was not heard in the press.” “Terms such as “invasion”, “occupation,” “resistance” are illegal words in reporting Iraq war and post Iraq War” “Before the war, the Chinese media ... sent over 100 journalists to Iraq border preparing to cover the war. But the Chinese authorities finally banned all of them from entering Iraq to report the war.” In 1999 NATO bombed the “Chinese editors disclosed that the real reason the government decided to ban the journalists from entering Chinese embassy Iraq was that the government did not want to see another “accidental” bombing and killing by the American in Belgrade military. “ “In the age of globalization, the Chinese TV audience are increasingly becoming passive subjects of manipulation and control by the country’s 13 state TV channels and 9 Murdoch-owned channels.” “By relaying CNN and Fox, many [Chinese] TVs are becoming the tongue and throat of the American government.”
  • 54. Chinese TV Coverage of the War in Iraq Li Xiguang’s speech on World Press Freedom Day in 2004 “Since most media in developing countries did not send journalists to Iraq to experience and witness all news events, CNN and Fox’s live coverage naturally become what most of the international community believe as the most reliable channels for providing information to the public.” “Many Chinese journalists refuse to believe that in a free society like the US, the media are also relying heavily on government sources in covering a war.” “The first step of getting closer to truth is to be freed from the bird cage of the government propaganda and global media.“
  • 55. Net-enabled Leverage/Accountability Politics Cross-national dynamics exposure to international media through the Internet international media pick up information first published online Internet as lever: stories on Global Voices
  • 56. China blocks YouTube in wake of Tibet protests
  • 57. “We don’t know the reason for the block,” a YouTube spokesman, Scott Rubin, said. China routinely filters Internet content and blocks material that is critical of its policies. It also frequently blocks individual videos from YouTube. “The instant speculation is that YouTube is being blocked because the Tibetan government in exile released a particular video,” March 24, 2009
  • 58. YouTube not blocked in Beijing With conflicting reports about YouTube access in China tonight, here’s the breakdown from reports to Herdict, a censorship reporting tool: 156 reports from China in the past 26 1/2 hours (March 5 11:30 PM Beijing Time) 125 report YouTube inaccessible 31 report YouTube accessible China blocks YouTube in Wake of Tibet Protests
  • 59. What about access by marginalized groups? How legitimate is it to speak for the other?
  • 60. Trebor Scholz Twitter: trebors Blog: Delicious: Flickr: LibraryThing: