ICA Pre-Conference: 22 – 23 May 2018 at Leiden University, the Netherlands
The Leiden University Institute for Area Studies and Leiden Law School welcome scholars from the area studies, social sciences, law, humanities, computer sciences, and from multi-disciplinary backgrounds to the 16th annual Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC16), to be held in Leiden, the Netherlands, on 22-23 May 2018. CIRC16 will explore the theme ‘modes of connection’, across social, economic, and political fields.
General Theme: Modes of Connection
The field of China internet research has fruitfully tracked communication patterns across different media types in the Chinese speaking world, generating a lively discussion about the role that different discourses and media types play in Chinese society. The themes of this year’s conference will augment these efforts by asking how media and communication are bolted to the world. The internet has rapidly become much more than a venue for the exchange of information. It is closely intertwined with social interactions, economic exchanges, and the practice of governance. At the same time, concerns surrounding the internet are no longer merely confined to free expression and access to information, they have come to include the impact of the internet on the integrity of political systems, personal data protection, terrorist use of ICTs, and cybercrime. While the notion of connection remains at the heart of what the internet is, there is now much greater complexity in the nature of connectivity that ICTs permit, and therefore the social, economic, and political questions they generate. Consequently, CIRC 16 will ask how different actors deploy novel ICT to transform the modes through which people connect. The conference will drill into this broad topic by focusing on three sub-themes:
Sub-Theme 1: Modes of Community
Information and communication technologies like the internet are frequently singled out as harbingers of social change, in China as much as elsewhere. Yet there has not been a sustained scholarly effort to explore how contemporary ICT affect social groups in China, how they change interpersonal dynamics, to what extent they shape our sense of community, and how such communities become politicized through ICT usage. This sub-theme of the conference will explore how media and communication are anchored in modes of communal interaction, how they transform those modes, and how specific Chinese contexts influence these processes. Do digital technologies extend and accelerate the established logics of social interactions and group affiliations, or do they change the rationale behind our relations? What happens to friendships, family ties, work relations, and political interactions once they are ‘upgraded’ to Web 2.0? What does it take to bring users together and turn them into political subjects like ‘netizens’? Can there ever be such a thing as a ‘digital community’, and if so: what would make such a community sustainable as a viable political group? Finally, what changes do digital media networks introduce to traditional ‘imagined communities’, that is: to large-scale associations like nations, religious orders, or political movements, but also consumer groups or fan communities, in which members do not personally know all other members and yet feel connected through shared practices? Questions like these go to the heart of how we conceptualize digital media and their relevance today. Applicants interested in this theme may consider addressing one or several of the following topics in Chinese contexts:
- Construction of community sentiments through network technologies and digital media practices, for instance nationalism, localism, fandom, religion, attachments to hobbies and collective activities, or support for activist ideologies that drive groups like hacker.
- Everyday use of technologies such as mobile devices and computers by different groups, in different social contexts, and for different purposes.
- Digital discourse and communication power within Chinese community networks.
- Community-building through internet and digital media usage in different parts of the Chinese-speaking world, e.g. mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or overseas diaspora.
Sub-Theme 2: Modes of Production
The internet is far more than a set of communication networks; it is also a radically new mode of economic production. Whether in the form of digital finance (online banking, cryptocurrency speculation, etc.), digital commerce (retail and wholesale), or digital and digitally-enabled services (online entertainment, transportation services, digital gift economies), ICT are thoroughly revamping the relations between production and consumption, between capital and labour, in the Chinese economy. What are the implications of these processes? Who stands to win, and who are the losers? How do these processes alter and influence traditional economic structures, perhaps disrupting existing (political-)economic interests? With more and more people relying on digital conveniences such as bike rentals or group coupon offers, how powerful do certain platforms become? How strongly are they reshaping existing markets for goods and services? Contributors to this theme may consider the following areas of interest:
- Interaction between work and leisure on the internet, as well as issues related to digital commerce and commercialization (e.g. when play and labour fuse into ‘playbour’),
- Changing production and distribution modes enabled by new constellations of capital and labour, for instance in so-called Taobao Villages or in Maker Spaces.
- Convergence and interaction between different digital media technologies, entertainment formats, advertising strategies, and commercial services on digital platforms, for instance on digital video channels.
- The changes in China’s economy (and their political impact) brought about by ubiquitous microblogging and social chat services (Weibo and Weixin), digital payment platforms (Alipay), and cryptocurrencies.
- The broader changes in China’s political-economic structure wrought through digitalization, for instance efforts to open up immigration opportunities for talented specialists.
Sub-Theme 3: Modes of Organization
The internet is not an exogenous phenomenon, it is an artefact. It is recreated and reformed on a daily basis, primarily through the efforts of governmental and private sector actors, who are attempting to reconfigure the internet in pursuit of their strategic objectives. However, even in China, these actors need to be responsive to the demands, complaints, and requirements of end users, who therefore are not unimportant in the question of how the internet is organized. This sub-theme will explore how different stakeholder categories attempt to influence the way that the internet itself is organized, how connections are enabled or disabled, and how this affects the continuous reconfiguration of the online environment.
- Internet politics and policies in the Chinese-speaking world, including e-governance and cyber-security, as well as the interaction of various nodes of regulatory or organizational power.
- Social and political participation in Chinese digital networks, as well as limitations to such participation (e.g. access, digital divides, etc.)
- The evolution of legitimizing or challenging narratives to particular forms of ICT organization (for instance the use of security, etc.)
- Transformation of political legitimacy in the wake of novel digital civic services, as well as novel forms of governance (such as the social credit system).
- Digitally enabled political activism and its limits.
Paper and Panel Proposals
The organising committee invites proposals for paper presentations or panels that address one or more of the three themes related to the modes of connection in China, through both critical, theoretically-minded research and innovative empirical methods.
Proposals should be written in English and should not exceed 400 words for individual papers, or 1000 words for panel proposals. Please also include a brief bio and any relevant contact details. Proposals and enquiries should be sent to Dr. Florian Schneider: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proposals should be submitted by 1 February 2018. The organising committee will inform applicants of its decision by the end of that month. Full versions of the accepted papers are to be submitted by 1 May 2018. Papers should not exceed 8,000 words, including notes and references, and should be sent to the organising committee via email.
Organization and Location
CIRC16 is organized by DR. Florian Schneider (Leiden Institute for Area Studies) and Dr. Rogier Creemers (Leiden Law School). The conference will take place at the Kamerlingh Onnes Building at Leiden University’s Faculty of Law (Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden, The Netherlands).
Plenary sessions will be scheduled in lecture theatre A144; panels will be convened in rooms A002, A008, A028, and B016.