Mar 7, 2009

They Just had not Noticed the Censorship

screen-capture.pngRebecca Mackinnor brought an interesting talk at the Berkman Center on China's Internet culture. See the video here, and see the notes by Ethan Zuckerman here, and notes by David Weinberger here.

In her presentation, Rebecca figures out the Back-Dorm Boys (后舍男孩), Premier Wen Jiabao's 2-plus hour net chatting, rivercrab(河蟹), "alpaca sheep(草泥马)", blocked blogs and so on. These are very familar to Chinese netizens, at least those Chinese netizens who are working on the social development of the cyberspace and the cyberlaw. While what the most important observation of Rebecca, in my view, appears at the Q&A session. She said that for many people living in the mainland China, they  just not noticed the censorship.

Why? Becuse they just have many other concerns about their life, and

(1) for Chinese mainlander students, there are so much interesting stuffs IN the Chinese Cyberspace, including "alpaca sheep";

(2) for foreigners (and actually some Chinese white collars either, I think) in mainland, they can get anything if they can read English, unless one's job focuses on the human rights issues specifically.

Yes, they just had not noticed the censorship. This is a very curcial and of course accurate description. Some may worry about this, but I'd say the contrary hereby.

Yes, the so-called cyber authoritarian may not be comfortable when someone meets it. However in most circumstance, one doesn't have to knock into the wall. I mean, as a matter of fact, Chinese netizens just don't HAVE TO notice it because comparing with the off-line world, the cyberspace itself, even in a firewalled intranet, have had brought so much fun to the people. It is the distributed network itself that provides the possibility of freedom of express, the freedom of knowledge sharing, the freedom of fun, the freedom of "lower taste" (低俗) - if not the freedom of obscene, and the freedom of piracy. This nature of the network is important, not only for the Internet controllers working for the regime, but also for the fighters of cyber democracy.

If there must be some value in the networked society, the best choice may not be, at least not only be the norm of freedom, but rather the Value of Value-neutral - not only for the technology, but also for the attitude to the cyber-society.

Actually, based on the same concern, in the cnbloggercon 2008, I proposed that a Chinese blogger conference may invite more bloggers who might never care about the social development, such as homosexual bloggers, Shebloggers, gourmets, and so on. They are making their own fun and create their own special information into the cyberspace continuously. In some sense, it is these various bloggers making the Chinese cyberspace being pluralistic, and then survived itself from a world of monopolization - of the money, power, resouce, and the thought.

Rebecca quotes the proverbs in Tao-te Ching (道德经) at the beginning of her talk (see slides here): 

The Kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.

天下神器,不可为也,为者败之,执者失之。

I'd echo the following sentence at the end of the same paragraph:

Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.

是以圣人去甚,去奢,去泰。

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