The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Marolt: Blogging in China: Cyber-Urban Institutions and Political Change

Paper presenter: 
Marolt, P., Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

China’s blogosphere has developed into an extraordinary space for people to assert their autonomy and confront traditional political institutions on their own terms and around their own projects. In the process, bloggers in China have created a variety of participatory platforms around which new institutional forms have sprung into being. In this workshop paper, after providing a succinct overview of the roots and significance of the practice of blogging in China and theoretical remarks about the significance of processes of social development and institutions as conduits for social change, I corroborate the emergence of various kinds of ‘cyburban’ proto-institutions that function as extensions of traditional public spaces and that mediate between local agency and global structure. Practitioners’ voices and six brief case studies provide evidence for the materialization of new institutional forms. These proto-institutions are turning into active participants in a radical shift in the structure of China’s institutional landscape and have the capacity to imbue new meanings and negotiate cultural and political authority through mediating between (netizen) agency and (party-state) structure. I conclude that, rooted in individual agency, these cyburban institutions are manifest on an urban scale that negotiates and mediates between the local and the national/global. From there they have already begun ‘reformatting’ politics and state-society relations.