Saturday, February 2, 2013

Master's Thesis

I've begun setting aside large blocks of my time to finally begin putting a dent into my Master's Thesis writing.  I am aiming to complete this project by the end of this spring semester so let's hope that I continue to stay on track and get some solid writing down as often as I can.

The topic for my Master's thesis is building upon my undergraduate work, again focusing on the growth of the Chinese Internet and how netizens are working to reshape the memory of the Cultural Revolution. 

Below is a short abstract for my work in progress:

Reshaping the Social Memory of the Cultural Revolution in the Digital Age

The growth of the internet in China has granted Chinese citizens a new outlet for having their voices heard, allowing Chinese to log onto the web and speak out against corruption, build movements, and rally against social injustices. Netizens, or internet users, are able to take advantage of internet anonymity to raise issues that could never been raised offline, such as environmental concerns, issues of local-level corruption, and anger at the rigorously competitive college entrance exam. With over 500 million users accessing the Chinese internet, it has become a place of political participation where social memory is discussed and transformed. This has become evident in online discussions of the Cultural Revolution, a social and political movement which took place in China between 1966 and 1976.

After four decades, memory of the Cultural Revolution is used on the Chinese internet to describe violent behaviors being shared online as a context for highlighting China’s social instability. Netizens are making comparisons between current violent acts of protest and extreme Red Guard behaviors, which evoke heavy emotions from the Cultural Revolution generation. This research argues that these tensions and reprisals among netizen groups arose from the disconnect between current uses of Cultural Revolution revivalism on the Chinese internet and the impact this has for individuals of the Cultural Revolution generation.
Specifically, this research engages with the implications and purposes of invoking memories of the Cultural Revolution on the Chinese Internet. 

Analyzing recent trends of how the internet is changing communication, this study proves that the post-1980s generation, in drawing from the Cultural Revolution, is not aware of the implications that making such connections on the internet has. Lack of education and public historiography of this decade of Chinese history is due to the government’s efforts to sweep it into the dustbin of history, having labeled the Cultural Revolution a “dark chapter” in Chinese modern history. Netizens making these comparisons are merely calling out current events as being the same as the Cultural Revolution without delving into the larger context of what that period of history means for the generations who lived through it. As such, this Cultural Revolution revivalism and re-characterization of its social memory as seen through Chinese social media has complex meanings for how China’s post-1980’s generation defines that decade of events.