China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The Internet is often sold as the “anti-television”, a tool that creates a democratic space for user-generated content and lateral connections among users. When it comes to China, this vision has inspired much scholarship on how this technology enables ordinary citizens’ voice-making, witness-bearing, and mobilization repertoires that challenge the authoritarian rule. As the field further matures, it expands into more textured study of users’ identities, cultures, and practices in the everyday. Shifting from a focus on grassroots expression, this penal collectively investigates institutional content provision, the scale of which keeps expanding on the Chinese Internet. Institutional content provision refers to formal economic or political organizations manufacturing and delivering content in bulk to serve a massive user-base. In this panel, cross-disciplinary scholars working in the area of communication, culture, politics, and media studies approach this topic through historical, conceptual, and ethnographic angles. The papers include (1) a political economy explication of the development of Chinese Internet industries entwined with global digital capitalism, (2) an archival excavation of the momentous yet understudied rise of state-sponsored provincial web portals at the turn of the century, (3) a discourse analysis tracing how, from the early 2010s, the buzzword “zimeiti” (self-media) came to veil its commercial logic, and (4) an ethnographic study of China’s Internet novel industry that let “Chinese dream(s)” proliferate and mutate through mass consumption. Together, these papers demonstrate how analyzing institutional content provision can shed new light on the ramifications of Internet technology in the country’s social, economic, and political domains.