Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 27: Getting connected in China: taming the mobile screen
The cultural and creative industries in China are more than ever before reliant on content, and less on propaganda. The old image of state-owned cultural institutions (shiye) dispensing pedagogic content to a loyal mass audience has ceded to a more dynamic model that closely follows international developments in digital media and the protection of copyrights – although the sustainability of this model and its international competitiveness inevitably relies on state policy. The new players in the market are testing boundaries. The audiovisual entertainment marketplace is where we see these tensions playing out. How this impacts on the state’s conceptualization of ‘national cultural industries’ that might contribute to China becoming a ‘strong cultural power’ is unclear. The mass audience is fragmented, nomadic and inclined to be disloyal. Whereas in the past people’s lives were physically shaped by face-to-face social rituals, now these same rituals have become part of the digital landscape of ‘connected viewing’. The online audio-visual market in China is witnessing the co-evolution of technology, culture and economy. In this chapter I focus on emerging mobile and social viewing practices, as well as a number of industry innovations. I start with an overview of the rise of mobile and social viewing in China. I provide an illustrative example of the changing viewing cultures around the annual Spring Festival Eve Gala, a well-established ritual in the country.
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