New Media, The Internet, and a Changing China: Conference Notes

Last week I attended a very interesting conference on the Chinese Internet organized by the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, University of Pennsylvania. The conference was entitled New Media, The Internet, and a Changing China and included presentations by scholars from different disciplines.

I presented a paper in the panel on civil society, entitled Connectivity, Civic Engagement and Witnessing on Weibo, adressing the different forms of connectivity and civic engagement that we find on on weibo, including the ubiqutous use of images. In my paper (still very much work in progress) I tried to relate to and engage with some important non-Chinese works addressing and unpacking the different forms of connectivity on social media, such as José van Dijk’s insightful The Culture of Connectivity, Evgeny Morozov’s provocative and critical dimissal of clictivism and slacktivism, elaborated upon in The Net Delusion (on Morozov and his critical thinking I enjoyed reading a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review), and the inspiring new work by Lance Bennett and Alexandra Segerberg, The Logic of Connective Action.
I enjoyed and learnt much by the other presentators in my panel, Min Jiang and Shi Zengzhi (whose new book on media empowerment is on top of my pile of books), and from the comments of our discussants  Yang Guobin, Rebecca MacKinnon and Marwan Kraidy. Another panel addressed the legal dimensions of China’s new media landscape, and for example included a paper on freedom of speech and internet regulations by Rogier Creemers. The last day included a panel on public opinion and new media from an international relations perspective, with several interesting and topical case studies, whereas the final panel addressed the business side of social media and included both business people and scholars. The conference also included a panel on the hot topic of journalism and China-US relations (for the full details of the conference see the programme and abstracts).
One of the topics that kept coming up in many discussions was the decline of weibo and the rise of WeChat, a topic I addressed briefly in a previous post, and what this will mean for connectivity and public debates on-line. A number of recent reports in New York Times and the Economist have also adressed this development, and China Internet Network Information Center in its most recent report released in January presented some figures to prove the point, reporting a 9 % drop in weibo use during 2013.
We will continue to follow developments in the Chinese digitial society during the Year of the Horse. 新年快乐!
February 2, 2014

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