Politically intended vulnerabilities: Chinese youth as target of ICT policies in education

Conference paper presented at the Journal of Youth Studies Conference, Contemporary Youth, Contemporary Risk on March 30, 2015 (Copenhagen)

Official policies, academic discussions and public debates frequently address the potential risks and dangers of the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) among children and youth. At the same time, however, digital policies in education create themselves new vulnerabilities for school children and youth that often go unnoticed as they occur within politically desired frameworks. This becomes particularly apparent in the Chinese case, where student users of ICT are envisioned as ‘transparent subjects’ whose ‘brains and hearts’ can be reached and occupied by the help of new technologies.

My paper discusses the political and moral-ideological ramifications of the ‘digital student’ in a society that is both subscribing to an authoritarian-framed governance and embracing new technologies. Drawing both on a critical analysis of policy/academic documents and on first results from fieldwork conducted in Beijing in 2014, I argue that the use of ICT in seemingly unpolitical environments is deeply political, as it is intermeshed with underlying conceptions about what constitutes useful learners, healthy youth and ideal citizens. The Chinese case thus presents an example of how on the surface value-neutral technologies in education become politicized once they enter local contexts, with far-reaching consequences for children and youth who are to be socialized into these contexts.

About Barbara Schulte

Barbara Schulte is Associate Professor at the Institute of Sociology, Lund University
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