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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rethinking Civic Computing in China

  • Author(s): Kou, Yubo
  • Advisor(s): Nardi, Bonnie
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License

Civic computing research has accumulated a systematic body of knowledge about Western societies. However, little attention has been paid to China, a non-Western, non-democratic society. I study how information and communication technologies (ICTs) affect civic participation in China. I have conducted a qualitative study of how Weibo users understood and discussed the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest from September to December 2014. Weibo is one of the most common micro-blogging services in China.

Drawing on Foucault’s work on care of the self, I analyze how my participants cultivated their own knowledge through civic participation. Participants faced challenges in comprehending numerous competing narratives and discourses from information sources, such as the Hong Kong media, the mainland media, Western media, and social media. They were determined to study a variety of sources on their own. They focused on improving their own understanding and analytic skill. ICTs mediated their practices of care of the self.

I argue that the choice of care of the self was conditioned in China’s unique context. Particularly, the notion of care of the self resonates with the teachings of Confucianism, China’s traditional philosophical and ethical system. I argue that the notion of care of the self is of special value to civic computing research.

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