Symposium on Digital Formations and Chinese Experiences: Creation, Appropriation, and Circulation

12 Jun 2017 - 10:00am to 13 Jun 2017 - 3:00pm
Penn Wharton China Center, Beijing
Invitees Only

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Introducing their volume on Digital Formations: IT and New Architectures in the Global Realm, Robert Latham and Saskia Sassen outline a new agenda for studying novel social forms and formations which are largely constituted in digital space and networks. They list examples such as global electronic markets, Internet-based large-scale conversations, knowledge spaces arising out of networks of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and early conflict warning systems.

When their book was published in 2005, important new digital forms and formations were already appearing in China. Over a decade has now passed. It is no exaggeration to say that institutions and practices associated with Chinese digital networks have created numerous cultural, social, political, and commercial forms and formations. Some examples are: online communities, WeChat groups, Weibo Big V's, internet memes, “new media events," cyber-nationalism, internet literature, emojis, duanzi jokes, internet rumors, "the fifty-cent party," “404," virtual red packets,” virtual wallets, WeChat rewards, various kinds of apps, the Alibaba commercial empire, and more.

While a large proportion of the Chinese population is still left out, these various digital forms and formations have become more and more pervasive in contemporary society, introducing new vocabularies, practices, habits, and disruptions to everyday life and existing institutional arrangements. They are often appropriated for different purposes by different social actors. Thus emojis may be weaponized by cyber-nationalists as well as used by advertising agencies. Rumors may be circulated in the forms of gripping narratives to mobilize public protest or to serve as clickbaits. State propaganda agencies may use duanzi or short videos to spread political messages packaged as entertainment.

Invited authors are encouraged to identify and analyze one or more digital forms or formations in the history of the development of the internet and other information and communication technologies in China. We welcome conceptual and theoretical work as well as historical and empirical studies.

The symposium is organized by the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with the Department of Communication Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the College of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University. Ity is sponsored by the journal Communication and the Public.

Click here to download a PDF of the program.


10:00 am

Welcome remarks

  • Zhongdang Pan, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Lu Wei, Zhejiang University
  • Guobin Yang, University of Pennsylvania

10:15am – 12:00pm 

Panel 1 State and Legacy Media Meet Digital Platforms

Chair: Zhongdang Pan, University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Shaohua Guo, Carleton College, “‘Occupying’ the Internet: State Media and the Reinvention of Official Culture Online”
  • Jianguo Deng, Fudan University, "Discursive Wars: How 'Regaining Lost Influence' and Doing New Media' Help Chinese News Media Negotiate Press Censorship – A Case Study of the Mobile News App The Paper"
  • Francis Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong, “Institutional Reconfiguration and Media Loops in the Integrated Mediascape: A Case Study of the Chief Executive Election in Hong Kong”

12:00pm – 1:15pm Lunch


Panel 2: Digital Activism and Playful Nationalism

Chair: Lu Wei, Zhejiang University

  • Fangzhou Ding, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, “The Symbolic Activist in Digitally Enabled Social Movements: The Case of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement”
  • Zhou Kui, Chinese University of Communication and Wang Zhe, Zhejiang University of Media and Communication, "Playful ‘nationalism’: The Double Articulation of Game Playing and National Identity Online"

3:15-3:30pm Coffee break

3:30pm – 4:45pm

Panel 3 Sounds and Clouds of the Digital

Chair: Francis Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong

  • Jinying Li, University of Pittsburgh, “Grey Clouds: The Media Ecology of Eco-Apps in China”
  • Adel-Jing Wang, Zhejiang University, “The Acoustic Uncanny and the Problem of Too Many Worlds in the Digital Age"


10am - 11: 45am

Panel 4 Emotion, Reason, and Incivility in Online Discourse

Chair: Jack Qiu, Chinese University of Hong Kong

  • Jia Dai, Tsinghua University, “Emotions Outweigh Reasoning: An Analysis of Weibo Posts on the ‘PM2.5’ Issue”
  • Shiwen Wu, Wuhan University and Stephanie Na Liu, Sichuan University, “Contentions on the Internet and Shifting Interests: Interest and Reason in China’s New Media Events”
  • Yunya Song, Hong Kong Baptist University, “The Viral Spread of Incivility Online: Tracking the Discussion of Hong Kong- Mainland China Conflict on Weibo”        

11:45 – 1:15pm lunch

1:15pm - 2:30pm

Panel 5 Labor, Market, and Digital Commodity

Chair: Guobin Yang, University of Pennsylvania

  • Linchuan Jack Qiu, Chinese University of Hong Kong, “Circuits of Labor and China's Digital Working Class”
  • Jing Wang, Rutgers University, “It's not just Internet plus Finance: The Internet and New Power Relations in China's Financial Market”
  • Yizhou Xu, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Digitizing Death: Virtual Commemoration of Joss Paper Rituals”
  • Elaine Yuan, University of Illinois at Chicago, “Alibaba’s Bazaar: Constructing Online Market”           

2:30pm Concluding Discussions


This event may be photographed and/or video recorded for archival, educational, and related promotional purposes. We also video stream many of these video recordings through the Annenberg web site. By attending or participating in this event, you are giving your consent to be photographed and/or video recorded and you are waiving any and all claims regarding the use of your image by the Annenberg School for Communication. The Annenberg School for Communication, at its discretion, may provide a copy of the photos/footage upon written request.