Streaming Publicness: Emerging Conjunctions Across Digital Media Platforms in Contemporary China (2014-2019)

Title: 1348 | Streaming Publicness: Emerging Conjunctions Across Digital Media Platforms in Contemporary China (2014-2019)
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Wenting Wang, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), France (organizer, presenter)
Jing Zhang, Communication University of Zhejiang, China (presenter)
Lu Xu, Paris-Diderot University, France (presenter)
Seio Nakajima, Waseda University, Japan (chair, discussant)


This panel develops “streaming publicness” as a framework to study the social conjunctions emerging from the production, circulation and regulation of digital media objects within more general juridical, economic, and political contexts. China’s rapid development in internet communication technology and the widespread proliferation of mobile devices means that different social groups are growingly interconnected within a common digital network. The newest changes in media and communication infrastructure, which are featured by instant interaction designs and lively-quantified visibility, not only structure new public platforms and new ways of social integrations, but also induce all social agencies, old or new entrants into the system, to co-cultivate a more interactive and gradated vision of publicness. Rather than falling into a “technological determinism”, and thus denying human capacity and responsibility for changes, we argue that the digital media platforms are deeply implicated in social processes of emerging interdependencies and contradictions.
From different disciplinary perspectives ranging from media studies, sociology, to political economy, three panelists exchange ideas about the tensions between professionalization and popularization, new agencies of the producers and the audience as well as the transformative role played by digital media. Discussion Topics include online debates on public-private boundaries, legal knowledge and the meanings of entertainment across communities; governmental cultural policy of online entertainment content produced by private streaming video platforms; and young documentarians’ intent on newest digital equipment and close interaction with targeted audiences.

Panel Abstracts:
Targeting Online Audiences: Professional ideal of Young Documentarists in Chinese Streaming Services Industry
My current study focuses on young Chinese documentarists who work for Youku, a subscription-based streaming provider and production company headquartered in Beijing. Since 2013-2015, young professionals swarmed into documentary film industry in the triple contexts of 1) the expansion of Internet media industries into content production business, 2) the growing demands of in-depth discussions on social changes and 3) the commercialization of Chinese documentary films, which provided the new entrants an alternative to the dichotomous opposition between independent practices by individuals and mainstream productions by state-owned television stations. In my preliminary fieldwork, I found that young documentarists pride themselves on accepting at all costs the verdicts of market laws and harsh competitions with other niches of streaming services industry. Thus, cultivating a competitive ideal, in a way that they consider distinctive in the documentary world, young documentarists intent on perfection of cinematographic skills, proficiency of newest digital equipment and culture, and online interaction with public-spectators. The paper is a research work on professional practices in the production, distribution and reception of an award-winning documentary film Still Tomorrow, conceived and produced by Youku in 2016. It pays special attentions to the young Chinese documentarists’ reflections on the structural changes in the documentary industry and their pursuits of an unprecedented professional ideal.

Consuming Celebrity News: Entertainment and Legal Knowledge-making Across Chinese Online Communities
By examining online discussion over the private lives of celebrities and relevant defamation disputes, this paper inquiries into the ways in which different online communities engaged in defining proper public discussion in the digital era. The paper focuses on the online exchange about the private life of a Chinese celebrated actress Yang Mi, especially several defamation cases sued by her in 2019, within fan communities, legal professionals, and threads on white-collar discussion forum such as douban. I look into how diverse opinions interacted with each other about the boundaries between the public and the private, between collective benefit and individual rights, between the moral and the legal. I pay particular attention to whether/how Chinese netizens exchange opinions within or across communities. The paper shows that the social media, which dominate our current digital media landscape, not only structure new communication channels and social relations, but also cultivate new agencies who keep renewing popular understandings of public discussion and legal practices.

Governmental Regulation with Private Media: Chinese Cultural Policy of Content Production on Online Video Platforms
This paper examines how the Chinese cultural policy works in the digital media production and thereby in regulating the cyber public space by focusing on the increasing dominant role played by professional producers in online video platforms in China. Recent years witnessed a visible change in streaming video industry from the mode of UGC to the mode of investing on professional production crew. Many platforms aim to attract viewers in the fierce competition by vigorously branding homemade content in the context of cross-platform media flow. Unlike the direct monopoly imposed on the audiovisual product by state-owned TV stations in the years prior to the advent of video websites, State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of PRC (SAPPRFT) who continues Chinese government’s strategy in controlling the online production develop a strategy that simultaneously reinforce regular censoring measures by means of license delivery and form an internal control mechanism by cooperating with the producer team of online video programs. Based on a research in the producer team of online video programs from 2018 to 2019, this paper discusses the influence of cultural policy on the online cultural production and the values embedded in

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