Introduction to Digital Media: Chinese Cyberculture

This course examines the crucial, complex and conflicted relationship between China and the Internet. We explore the tensions between connectivity and control as they manifest in four main areas: the firewall and netizens; the online economy; electronic manufacturing and gaming; and Internet addiction and the compulsion of the virtual world.

Sample Syllabus

Week 1

Week 2
China versus the Internet

Mcluhan, Marshall: The Medium is the Massage

Can China Conquer the Internet: A China File Conversation:

Week 3
Connection + Control 

BDA China 2.0: Enabling Infrastructure, Access and Devices

China Internet Watch, China’s Internet Statistics Whitepaper

Sinica Podcast, Gady Epstein on the Internet with Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn,

Geremie R. Barme and Sang Ye, The Great Firewall of China, Wired, June 1997

James Fallows, The Connection Has Been Reset, Atlantic Monthly, March 2008

Rebecca Mackinnon, Inside China’s Censorship Machine, National Post, July 29, 2012

Charles Q Choi, The Surprising Way in Which China Censors the Internet, Popular Mechanics, Aug 21, 2014

Week 4

Guobin Yang, China’s Gradual Revolution, New York Times, March 13 2011

Perry Link. A Message Too Powerful to Stop, New York Times, September 29 2010

Rachel De Woskin, East Meets TweetVanity Fair,  February 17 2012

Duncan Hewitt, It starts with a tweet, BBC Radio Documentary, July 2012

Yu Hua, The Spirit of May 35th, New York Times,  June 23 2011

Evan Osnos, The Han Dynasty, New Yorker, July 4 2011

Brook Larmer, Where an Internet Joke is Not Just a JokeNew York Times, October 26 2011

Guobin Yang, The Curious Case of Jia Junpeng, or The Power of Symbolic Appropriation in Chinese Cyberspace , China Beat, Oct 20 2009

Han Han on Freedom, Democracy and Revolution, translated online at

Bingchun Meng, From Steamed Bun to Grass Mud Horse: E Gao as altenative political discourse on the Chinese Internet,Global Media and Communication April 2011 7: 33-51

Week 5
State Power and its Limits 

John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Miguel Helft and David Barboza, Google Shuts China Site in Dispute over Censorship, March 22, 2010

Sinica Podcast, Internet Wrangling in Wuzhen, Kaiser Kuo with Rogier Creemers

Lu Wei: Liberty and Order in Cyberspace: Keynote Speech at the Fifth China-UK Internet Roundtable Xinhua 2013/09/09  

The Creepy New Wave of the Internet, The New York Review of Books,

Week 6
The Giants of the Internet Economy 

April Rabkin. The Facebooks of China.” Fast Company. January 2011

Gady Epstein, Ours, all ours, The Economist. April 6 2013

John Watling, China’s Internet Giants Lead in Online Finance, The Financialist, February 14 2014

Charles Clover, Chinese Internet: Mobile wars, Financial Times, March 19 2014.


Dorinda Elliott, Tencent: The Secretive Chinese Tech Giant that can rival Facebook and Amazon,  Fast Company, April 17 2014

Bloomberg: Businessweek, Tencent: March of the Penguins,  Aug 04, 2011


What is Alibaba? Wall Street Journal

Alibaba IPO: Innovative Chinese Style, Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2014


Robert D Hof, A Chinese Internet Giant Starts to Dream,  MIT Technology Review, Aug 14 2014


Gilley, Bruce. "Huawei's Fixed Line to Beijing." Far Eastern Economic Review

(2001): 94-98.

Ahrens, Nathaniel. "Case Study: Huawei." China's Competitiveness: Myth, Reality, and Lessons for the United States and Japan. N.p.: Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2013. Web.

Week 7
Internet Economy continued.

Week 8
Capitalism, Street Markets & Science Fiction & Cyberpunk 

Gibson, William, Burning Chrome , Burning Chrome

Gibson, William, The Gernsbeck Continuum , Burning Chrome

Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World: Civilization & Capitalism 15th-18th Century, (Excerpts);

Week 9: Field Trip

Week 10
Making & Manufacturing 

Boy Luthje, Stefanie Hurtgen, Peter Pawlicki and Martina Sproll “From Silicon Valley to Shenzhen” in From Silicon Valley to Shenzhen Global Production and Work in the IT Industry

Chang, Leslie, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Excerpts)

A Third Industrial Revolution,The Economist, April 21st 2012

Gershenfeld, Neil, How to Make Almost Anything, Foreign Affairs, November 2012

Anderson, Chris, In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits, Wired, January 25, 2010

Lindnter, Silvia and David Li, Created in China: The Makings of China’s Hackerspace Community, Interactions, XIX. 6 November/December, 2012

Week 11

Bobbie Johnson. Shanzhai! Wired, July 12 2010

Sky Canaves and Juliet Ye Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Rebellion in China, Wall Street Journal, Jan 22 2009

Emelyn Baker, Shanzhai Digest

Bunnie Huang, Tech Trend: Shanzhai, bunniesstudio, February 26 2009

Josephine Ho, Shanzhai: Economic/Cultural Production through the Cracks of Globalization, Crossroads 2010 Plenary Speech

Yu Hua, “Copycat,” China in Ten Words,  Anchor Books, 2011

Seely Brown, John and John Hagel, Innovation Blowback, Disruptive ManagementPractices From Asia, McKinsey, February 2005

Week 12

Handbook of Computer Game Studies Paperback – August 19, 2011 by Joost Raessens (Editor), Jeffrey Goldstein (Editor)

Mirko Ernkvist, Enmeshed in Games with the Government: Governmental Policies and the Development of the Chinese Online Game Industry, Games and Culture January 2008 vol. 3no. 1 98-126

John D.H. Downing and Yong Cao, The realities of virtual play: video games and their industry in China, Media Culture Society July 2008 vol. 30 no. 4 515-525

Week 13
Game Addiction  

Screening: Web Junkie

Christopher S Stewart, Obsessed With the Internet: A Tale From China, Wired 01/13/10

McKenzie Funk,  I was a Chinese Internet Addict, Harper Magazine, March 2007

Marcella Szablewicz, The ill effects of “opium for the spirit”: a critical cultural analysis of China’s Internet addiction moral panic”, Chinese Journal of Communication, Vol. 3, No. 4, December 2010 453–470

Evan Osnos, Talking to China’s Web Junkies, New Yorker,  July 28 2014

Week 14

Bostrom, Nick, Are you living in a Computer Simulation

Francis, Matthew, Is this Life Real. Aeon Magazine