Accepted Paper:

The construction of an urban public sphere in the reconceptualization of social relations in post-reform China: a case study of Chinese volunteers at TEDtoChina  


Shijing Zhang (Indiana University Bloomington)

Paper short abstract:

Through a case study of a Chinese local volunteer group "TEDtoChina", this paper aims to examine the emergence of digital social relations among Chinese young professionals and its influence on the construction of a new urban public sphere.

Paper long abstract:

Taking the founding of a Chinese volunteer group—"TEDtoChina" as its point of departure, this study explores the emergence of a new urban public sphere at the convergence of global processes, local politics, grassroots efforts and the expansion of information and communication technologies. It investigates the reconceptualization of social relations and negotiation of communities and networks through deconstructing online and offline, real and imaged, and individual and collective. Given the web-based nature of TEDtoChina, almost all the communicative activities among volunteers are conducted through its online forum, which, as the paper will argue, helps foster a new form of digital social relations that breaks away from the traditional Chinese guanxi, and which helps shape a new urban landscape through global connections and carve out a new urban public space for free discussion, critical reflection, rational debate and organization of educational and advocative activities.

Panel P121
Global cities: digital urbanisation in the 21st century (Commission on Urban Anthropology)