Conference news: Digital Culture and Society: Chinese and European Developments

On October 19-20, 2017, Stefan Brehm, Barbara Schulte and Marina Svensson attended the conference Digital Culture and Society: Chinese and European Developments held at the Nordic Centre, Fudan University, Shanghai.

Stefan’s presentation was entitled Let’s talk! Are online stakeholder dialogues empowering Chinese citizens?


Chinese citizens articulate demands and voice grievances in social media; they organise resistance, reach out for help, ask for advice, and share information. In this context the academic literature debates Internet use as driver for enhanced political deliberation. The focus has been state-society relations. Grievances, however, are often related to the consequences of corporate misbehavior in particular environmental pollution and worker exploitation. As a result, interaction between citizens and firms is increasing. From this perspective social media may constitute a new driver for economic deliberation. This paper seeks to explore this hypothesis in the context of China. I use Habermas’ theories of communicative action and democratic deliberation to develop a framework for analyzing stakeholder dialogues between corporations and citizens online. I apply this framework to a case study of a multinational enterprises’ online engagement with Chinese citizens in a second tier city between 2004 and 2017. The results suggest that the conversation mode changed from information towards persuasion. Yet there is little evidence that online stakeholder dialogues serve as deliberative means.

Barbara’s presentation was called Education and New Technologies in China: The Politics of Visions and Strategies


In the Western hemisphere, the opposition of surveillance versus privacy appears to be common sense: any technology use with the potential risk of infringing upon personal integrity and privacy is in return expected to lead to substantial improvements in security in order to constitute a legitimate course of action. In China, the main problem of inhibiting the free flow of information is rarely seen in the potential violation of privacy rights but in the disadvantages that could emerge for China’s innovative capacity. These two different approaches towards digital control and surveillance are reflected in a number of fields, including education. Outside China, it is particularly the concept of critical digital literacy that has been focusing on how each individual can be equipped with the necessary tools to critically handle the infringing effects of digital technologies. In China, the relationship between education and technology is deeply intertwined with the nation-state project: new technologies are supposed to support the country’s modernization, which in turn is considered of utmost importance for the economic well-being and sovereignty of the nation. This paper investigates how the interaction between education and new technologies is framed in Chinese society, by focusing on the political visions and strategies that underlie potential uses of communication and information technologies (ICT) for educational and pedagogical purposes. It will be analyzed how official visions as articulated in strategy papers and guidelines portray the interrelationship of education and digital technologies, to then investigate how these items have been utilized by educators.

Marina’s presentation was entitled Mediated Visions: IT Entrepreneurs and Internet Visions in China


In order to understand how visions and narratives about the Internet are articulated, negotiated, and circulated in China, one needs to address and unpack a number of interrelated issues. It is important to map who has the possibility to articulate visions on the Internet in China, who is actually doing it and why, what having a ‘vision’ actually means, and which platforms different individuals and institutions have at their disposal for articulating these visions (including policy documents, news media, academic journals, art etc). Visions can be embedded in technological solutions and products, and also driven and articulated by IT entrepreneurs and companies that create new demands, behaviours and visions. The development of the Internet has to an important degree been driven by IT entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who have been very good in articulating their visions and through their products also shaped ordinary citizens’ visions of the Internet. Chinese IT entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma of Alibaba have also to varying degrees articulated their visions on different platforms. In this paper I focus on a selected number of Chinese IT entrepreneurs and discuss whether and how their visions differ from their Western counterparts, and how they are articulated and speak to Chinese conditions. I also focus on where these visions have been circulated, whether it is in traditional media or on the Internet itself, and how this has shaped how these visions are articulated and circulated.



November 8, 2017

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