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“(un)civil society” and “Chinese internet or internet in China?”

The University of Alberta’s China Institute invites paper proposals for the 13th annual Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC) to be held in Edmonton, Canada on May 27-28, 2015. While following the CIRC tradition of welcoming a wide range of general submissions, this year’s conference will highlight the themes of “(un)civil society” and “Chinese internet or internet in China?”

(Un)civil Society

To date, much research on the Chinese Internet has focused on internet censorship as well as state-society confrontations. While these issues continue to hold importance, a new generation of research could help to unpack the multilayered and multidimensional reality and contradictions of the Chinese Internet. As the population of Chinese netizens has surpassed 600 million, not only has the Chinese internet become a contentious medium for the state and an emergent civil society, it has also given voice to controversial exchanges between various social groupings along ideological, class, ethnic, racial and regional fault lines. Some examples include the internet flame war between Han Han and Fang Zhouzi that defamed “public intellectuals” in China, the Left-Right debate amongst China’s intellectual communities that occasionally spill over into street brawls, online breach of privacy (e.g. certain instances of “human flesh search engine”), conflict between “haves” and “have-nots,” contention between Han and ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, racial discourse on mixed-race Chinese and immigrants, and debate over the “sunflower movement” in Taiwan and the “umbrella movement” in Hong Kong. Papers on this theme will shed light on uncivil exchanges online that fail to produce consensus or solutions and the social/cultural/political schisms that complicate the promise of constructive citizen engagement and civil society in China. Conversely, papers that illustrate, analyze and reflect on overcoming incivility online, without curtailing citizens’ rights to speech, security and safety are also welcome.

Chinese Internet or Internet in China?

Papers on this theme could consider the extent to which internet applications and user patterns in China are unique or simply representative of global trends, with local variations in terms of technology use and the associated cultural meanings. They might also address the growing popularity of Chinese internet applications among users abroad. Put differently, how “unique” and how “Chinese” is the “Chinese internet?” Should we be talking about a “Chinese internet” or the “internet in China?” Comparative perspectives as well as the development of fresh theoretical angles are encouraged.

Papers may be submitted outside these two themes. Researchers are invited to submit proposals on any aspect of the development, use, and impact of the internet in China. Topics may include the economic, political, cultural, and social dimensions of internet use in China, may focus on interpersonal, organizational, international, or inter-cultural dimensions; and may explore theoretical, empirical, or policy-related implications.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Internet business, entertainment, and gaming
  • Research methods, web metrics, “big data” analysis, and network analysis
  • The digital divide along class, gender and rural-urban lines
  • The globalization of such Chinese internet firms as Baidu, WeChat, and Alibaba
  • Cultural activities or cultural tensions expressed through such popular mediums as microblogs (weibo), and WeChat (weixin)

The China Institute will sponsor participants’ meals during the conference dates, but is unable to cover travel costs. A limited number of university accommodations are available at reduced rates on first-come-first-served basis. There is no registration fee for this conference. As in past years, top single-authored papers by graduate students will receive awards. Participants are also invited to join in a three-day, self-paid trip to the Canadian Rockies after the conference. Please submit paper proposals of no more than 400 words in length with the subject line of “CIRC proposal” by February 15, 2015 to esarey@ualberta.ca. Acceptance notices and panel information will be released in March 2015.

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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