This is a prompt challenge @suddenclarityharry had the inspiration for after reading some of the feelings described in the book 1000 Feelings For Which There Are No Names. Participants pick a random number between 1 and 1000 and have to use the feeling described to write a short fic in a week’s time! We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them.
Because of his agility and fast reaction time, Milo has no reason to fear Murphy’s Law as long as he has complete freedom of movement, but he cannot afford to be impeded in any way. If he lost the use of one or both hands, even briefly, it could prevent his usual getaway and he might not be so lucky. Additionally, if he were forcibly attached to another person, both of their lives would be imperiled.
His fear of Chinese finger traps makes perfect sense.
You are not welcome here.
This is a safe haven for all our brethren away from violence, threats and outings.
We stand here against you, as all people should be against in totality hatred, discrimination, white nationalism, fascism and nazi rhetoric.
You will be reported. You will be banned. You will NOT enter this space.
Your beliefs are not beliefs. You, in your entirety, are invalid and wrong. Absolutely, unequivocally wrong. It is wrong to believe what you do and it is completely unacceptable.
We do not do violence here.
I will not fight you. Because to fight would mean to respect. And that of you, I absolutely do not. You will be pushed out by the iron doors of my heart. You will be blocked away for the safety of others by the cold hand of justice. I do not fear you. I do not commiserate with you. I absolutely do not accept you.
I am intolerant of intolerance and as such intolerance is the only thing a tolerant community never tolerates.
Remember this: the constitution protects YOU from your GOVERNMENT. It does NOT protect you from being ignored, from your shows being cancelled, from people heckling you, from people boycotting you, none of it. Freedom of speech does indeed protect you, it protects you from getting arrested by the government. It does NOT protect you from people disliking your hateful rhetoric and harmful speeches. We do NOT have to listen to you, as such we ABSOLUTELY SHOULD AND WILL NOT. Hate deserves NO platform.
I will not provide it. I will not hear it. You can go on knowing your government will not punish you for what you say. But you will not go on unpunished by we, the people.
We are united against you.
We are one.
We are strong.
We come together, all for one, one for all.
We do not fear you.
We will not hear you.
We will never accept your actions.
We will learn, and we will take you down.
So here it is! I didn’t come up with a fitting title so far but maybe next chapter. I already got the feeling that this will turn into a monster. I’m dying to throw an OC into this and see what happens, so this can be seen as a prologue. I really hope you guys like the idea because the next chapter is already in the making.
Naturally this is a bit off canon for both shows. Out of practical reasons the timelines are a bit different, also in this Ivar can walk and is a bit older then he currently is on the show. Later chapters might require more changes (I totally want Opie to be alive) but we will see.
I’m a bit nervous because this is so different from everything I have written before. I hope you guys like it.
„Have you heared the news from
Oaktown?“ Juice came running towards him as soon as he had pulled into the TM
Jax took off this helmet and
sunglasses. “Calm down, Juicy. What news are you talking about?”
“There’s a new crew in Oakland.
They’ve taken over Lin’s territory.”
Jax narrowed his eyes. “Really? I
suppose Lin’s not all too happy about that?”
“He was found dead yesterday
“Not too much of a loss for the world”
Jax stated as they joined Chibs, who was sitting at the picnic table in front of
the club house. “So what do we know about this new crew?”
“It’s an MC. They call themselves
Vikings. No one knows where they came from, they seem to have appeared out of
thin air.” Chibs said taking a long swig from his beer.
“They pop up out of nowhere, kill
Lin and take over his territory? They must be more than bold to pull of such a
thing. And smart if they’ve found a way of doing that without having to fear
the retaliation of the Chinese.”
Chibs gave a shrug. “Or maybe
they’re not so smart and the problem will solve itself soon.”
“There’s more. About Lin, how he was
found.” Juice added.
Jax looked at him and raised an
“It’s just rumors so far but they
say that his back was cut open and his lungs were pulled out. Then he was left
like that to bleed out or suffocate or whatever. That is really brutal shit,
“And it changes the whole dynamic in
Oaktown. What does that mean for us, Jackieboy?” Chibs asked.
Jax rubbed his chin. “I
don’t know yet. We’ll have to wait and see. But in the meantime I want you guys
to find out everything you can about this MC. We’ll deal with this later. Nero
is waiting for me in Stockton to talk about that Diosa expansion.”
On his way to Stockton the news
about this new MC were going round and round in Jax’ head. The road was long
and straight and there was not much to see besides slight hills and low bushes.
Deep in his thoughts, he noticed the dark van that suddenly appeared next to
him seconds too late. The side door slid open and Jax hit the brakes, just in time
to fall behind as three masked men started to shoot. He managed to get behind
the van and out of their sight but relief only lasted two seconds as the driver
of the van hit the brakes and he had to take a fast swing to the left in order
not to crash into the vehicle in front of him. He looked around for anything
that could be helpful, but there was only the straight road ahead and the
desert around him. That meant there was only one chance to get out of this
alive. He turned the gas lever and accelerated his bike to maximum speed. By
pure luck he dodged a few more bullets that came flying past him, but soon the
shooters realized that at this speed their chances to hit their target were
going towards zero and settled for just following him. For now.
Jax let out a relieved breath as the
outskirts of Stockton came into sight. He barely slowed down his bike as he
passed the first buildings, desperately trying to come up with a plan to get
rid of his followers. Obviously he couldn’t show up at Diosa with them still in
tow. He spotted a deserted looking factory hall to his right and managed to
drift into the gateway at a deadly tempo, wheels smoking and brakes shrieking.
A small smirk appeared on his face as he looked over his shoulder and saw that
the van hadn’t made it and had to stop and reverse. He drove around the
building and hid his bike behind a pile of scrap metal, although he knew it
probably made no difference. Looking for a way in, he found a small dirty
window just above his head. He smashed it with the handle of his gun and
managed to pull himself up and inside.
Jax heard the van pull up outside
and soon after there was a rattle on one of the doors. He found cover behind a
rusting dumpster just next to that door. If they came through it and marched
right in, he would be in their backs, maybe that would give him the advantage
he needed. A single shot echoed through
the hall, followed by a loud crack as the door was kicked open. His plan seemed
to work out, for the three men stepped in, totally unaware that he was that
close. He waited until they had passed him before he left his covert, gun pointing
straight at them as he flicked the safety off.
“Don’t move. Guns down. Don’t turn
around. You can try and shoot me if you want but then at least one of you dies
here.” He was almost surprised as they obeyed immediately, slowly bending down
to place their guns on the ground. “Good. Now slowly turn around.”
The men did das they were told and
slowly turned to face him. The moment he realized that all three were grinning
through their masks it was already too late. He heard the metallic klick of a
gun lock behind his back.
“Drop our weapon and raise your
hands.” A voice commanded from behind him.
He had seen three men shooting from
the van, of course there had to be at least one more. He cursed himself for his
stupidity. He was screwed now. There was
no way out of this one.
“What the hell do you want?” He
asked as his gun landed on the floor with a clatter.
There was no answer, instead a shot
rang out. Jax was startled and for a moment he was sure that this was the end.
Surprisingly he didn’t feel anything. Then he heard the dull thud of a body
hitting the ground.
The three men in front of him
grabbed their guns from the ground and ran for cover. As more gunshots echoed
through the factory, Jax decided that it probably was the smart move and
followed suit. He found a place where he had good cover but was also able to
see what was going on.
Three more men had entered the hall,
unlike the first ones they weren’t masked. Two of them had bold heads and thick
beards, the third one was dark haired and seemed to be younger than the others and
even though they all were wearing cuts, he didn’t recognize any of them.
They were going to work expertly,
giving each other cover while moving in on the masked men. It seemed as if the
bullets flying towards them didn’t concern them in the slightest. Jax had to
admit that he was impressed with their combat skills. He fired a few bullets as
well but from his position he had a shitty angle at his former capturers and
from what he saw these new arrivals weren’t in need for his aid. As soon as
they were close enough one of the two bolds made a hand sign and the dark
haired man started to move around the old truck the masked men had found cover
behind. As he circled the truck, Jax could see the back of his cut. Vikings MC it said over some strange
sign. The conversation with Chibs and Juice this morning came back to his mind.
He obviously had found the new Oakland crew. The other two Vikings were keeping the men behind the truck down with steady fire
and soon the dark haired one had reached them. No questions were being asked.
Three quick shots and then in got quiet.
This was probably the time to get
out of here, but to reach any possible entrance he had to get past them. He
wasn’t sure if they knew that he was still here until the dark haired one
gestured into his direction, addressing the others in a strange sounding
Jax tightened his grip around his
gun as they approached him. “Who are you?” He asked, raising his gun.
A split second later he was staring
into the muzzles of two hand guns. Only the bold guy in the middle hadn’t
raised his gun and Jax spotted a President’s patch on his chest.
The President clicked his tongue in
disapproval. “Is that the way to treat the guys that just saved your ass?” He
was talking with a slight accent Jax had never heard before. “You can put that
gun away, we have no quarrel with you.” He gestured for his companions to do
The other bold man slowly lowered
his gun but the younger one didn’t move. He was watching Jax through narrowed
eyes, his finger tense around the trigger.
The President nudged him with an
Jax could see the hesitation in the
other man’s eyes and slowly let his gun sink in de-escalation. Ivar followed
suit, but he made sure to move just a little bit slower than Jax did and unlike
everyone else he did not shove the weapon back into pants but kept it his hand,
radiating an air of silent threat.
The President nodded. “Now that that’s
settled, my name is Ragnar and this is Ivar, my VP and Floki, my Sergeant.” He
said, introducing the group. “And you’re Jax Teller, President of the Sons of Anarchy.”
Jax narrowed his eyes. “You know who
The Sergeant gave a strange giggle. “Of
course we do. We always do our homework, otherwise we wouldn’t be around
“Then maybe you also know who these
guys were.” Jax said, gesturing towards the four dead men. “And what they did
want from me, because I seriously got no clue.”
“A crew of drug dealers from
Oakland.” Ragnar explained. “Shitheads mainly, but they thought now that Lin is
gone they could become all big and influential. And they don’t seem to like
competition, killed one of my guys two day ago. I had someone following them
around ever since then and this place seemed perfect to make our move.” He
dramatically waved his hand around. “This is how we ended up here.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense. My
club isn’t selling drugs.” Jax argued.
“Well then, maybe they just didn’t
like your hair.” Floki said with another giggle.
Jax ignored him. “We are trying to
keep drug out of Charming.”
“Ah.” Ivar made, tapping his temple
with two fingers and Jax knew what he
meant, maybe that was the point.
“Well, maybe we should continue this
conversation elsewhere.” Ragnar suggested. “If the people of Stockton aren’t
deaf, the cops should be here soon.” He looked at Jax. “There’s a little party
tonight at our clubhouse. Why don’t you and your crew show up? Maybe we can
work together in some way to both of our benefit.”
this day in 705, Wu Zetian, the only sovereign empress of China, died
aged 81. Born during the Tang dynasty, she entered the court of Emperor
Taizong as a concubine when she was 14 years old. After Taizong’s death,
the new emperor Gaozong defied custom and chose the well-educated Wu to
remain as his favourite concubine. She rose to become Gaozong’s empress
in 655, after eliminating the current empress by allegedly killing her
own child and framing the empress. The new empress quickly silenced the
elder statesmen who opposed her position on the grounds that she did not
hail from the established aristocracy, with critics exiled and, often,
executed. Emperor Gaozong was a sickly man, and frequently entrusted
affairs of state to Wu, who managed imperial business essentially
single-handedly. Wu was a capable leader, known for her sound
management, her decisiveness, and her ruthlessness; these attributes won
her the respect, and fear, of the Chinese imperial court. Her greatest
accomplishments included agricultural and education reform,
stabilisation of the imperial bureaucracy, and imperial expansion. Upon
Gaozong’s death in 683, his son by Wu ascended to the throne, but,
concerned by the machinations of his ambitious wife, Wu had him exiled
and installed her other son as emperor. In 690, when she was 65 years
old, the empress claimed the throne for herself, and ruled as a
sovereign empress for 15 years. The question of succession led Wu to
designate her exiled son as heir, rather than choosing a member of her
own family, thus ensuring the continuation of the Tang dynasty. In 705,
senior officials conspired to compel the aging Wu to yield power to her
son. She accepted their demands and retired from the throne, dying in
December of that year. Despite decades of condemnation as a vicious
usurper, the achievements of Empress Wu Zetian, who defied the gender
conventions of her day, are increasingly being acknowledged.
Headcanon based on Milo’s fear of chinese finger traps theory. To sum it up, it states that since Milo can easily make a clean getaway if he has full freedom of movement, being hindered by something even as small as a chinese finger trap makes sense in terms of being scared of it. I raise you the idea that, what if being hugged/held too long/often or restrained scares him in the same fashion? if this is true, restraints would give him a strong sense of anxiety, since he cannot easily get away if something goes wrong and attempts to hurt him.
aight so listen up, i’m going to slap some indonesian history for you all because i like to share and tumblr is basically school but better
this guy up there is suharto, the second president of indonesia. he rose to the rank of major general following the country’s independence in 1945 but did he like that power? nope. this guy wanted more.
so in 1967 he attempted a coup and killed a handful of military officers to take the presidential throne by force from our beloved first president, soekarno, who was the bomb diggity and was the physical manifestation of chocolate chip cookies. this new era was called the new order (sounds scary because it was).
it doesnt stop there, this guy held on for 31 years by force. He threw people in prison for talking shit about him, even if it was an opinion. my sister back then was around 5 years old and she couldnt even say he had a ‘funny nose’ because she herself was in danger. he had eyes and ears everywhere. no one was safe. everyone had to vote for him otherwise there would be dire consequences. democracy? more like demo-crazy am i right ladies. there was no freedom of speech for 31 years. everything was punishable by death or imprisonment.
he had propaganda films shown each year, broadcasted everywhere on the same day, basically like the hunger games’ movie. he embezzled up to 35 billion dollars for his family and is now the #1 most corrupt leader in history.
he was a pure indonesian muslim who had beef with the chinese. the chinese minority became the scapegoat, similar to the jews in germany. you know how jews weren’t allowed to do this or that and they lived in fear? welcome to the chinese code:
no.14. everything related to the chinese culture is forbidden, including the freedom to practice religion, beliefs and traditions
no.127. chinese names have to be changed into an indonesian one
no.286. it is forbidden to speak mandarin
no.se-06. any indonesian citizens with foreign blood will have to change their names as well
no.37. for schools that allow chinese students, there should never be more than 40% of them in one class.
no.98. it is forbidden to publish or print anything with chinese characters
just like how the jews were stamped with their race on their papers, so were the chinese minority, even ones that’s been living here for decades. even my parents (who were like fifth gen chinese-indonesians) had to change their names.
dont forget about the invasion of east timor which resulted in at least 100,000 deaths. *sips cold ice tea* what a fucking dick.
then in may 1998, due to economic problems such as mass unemployment and food shortages, the indonesians lashed out and started rioting around the country for a week. killing and raping every chinese citizen. most of the chinese had to escape from the country to singapore or australia. there were 168 cases of reported rape in 1 week. properties by the chinese were targeted. buildings were burned. thousands died.
people were hung from billboards. the chinese were murdered on sight.
the university students were the ones that were brave enough to overthrow the government. people protested against the dictatorship, and 1998 was the fall of the new order. the country’s economy turned to shit, obviously, because suharto just kept all the money for himself and didn’t do diddly squat for the country except raise it’s debt and killed people.
after his fall he wasn’t even imprisoned. he just lived life like a boss. attempts to try him on charges of corruption and genocide failed because of his poor health and because of lack of support within the country. he became a free man. this asshole was a free man. guys imagine if hitler just walked around germany after world war II.
the problem is that his descendants are still alive and have quite an amount of power. not politically, but in general, they can have you killed. seriously. i might not even live to check the amount of notes for this post. one of the sons murdered someone and when he was sentenced to jail, he hired a hitman to kill the judge. he was set free. imagine if hitler had a kid and that kid was still running around killing people and doing whatever the fuck he wants because his daddy was the leader. exactly.
we’ve all heard about hitler, stalin, saddam hussein, and mao zedong. plus you’ve learned about black american history and the hitler regime. now add this to your List Of Things Fucked Up People Did.
CHINA. Beijing. June 1989. Family members try to comfort a grief-stricken mother who has just learned of the death of her son, a student protester killed by soldiers at Tiananmen Square on June 4. “The next day we went to the morgue. The families had no idea what had happened, and this mother just discovered her child had been killed.” In the days that followed, says Turnley, fear set in and few Chinese dared to speak to foreign photographers. “The power of the repression was so full-scale, it managed to put down not just their dreams. It was absolutely soul crushing for me, and still is, frankly.”
Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media — My PhD dissertation
And after seven years of research, I present to you my PhD dissertation:
Here’s a link to the abstract and to the pdf.
Needless to say, this has been a work of blood, sweat, tears, and love. I have a long list of people to thank for toiling beside me and for supporting me along the way. Without them, this project would not have been possible.
From the start of the writing process, I knew that I would want to share the finished product online. Thus, I have done everything I could to create a dissertation that is accessible to the public. I have deliberately chosen not to follow the traditional publishing route of turning my work into an academic book or a series of academic articles. Publishing my work online has made me super excited because it allows more people to actually read the paper and, hopefully, to build on top of my learnings. At the same time, the attention to my work has made me super anxious because of fears that people may not connect with my research or find it uninteresting.
But here I am, eager to share my dissertation with both excitement and anxiety. And at some point, after you have downloaded and read this pdf, I ask that you share your thoughts. I really do appreciate any and all feedback because it will help me with the next stage of this project. This dissertation will eventually take form as a mainstream non-academic book, which is why I have always called it the first draft of a book, which is tentatively titled, “Tales from the Chinese Internet.
So please share your criticisms, questions, confusions, and ideas. Please let me know what parts resonate with you the most and what parts you didn’t connect with. Don’t be afraid to be frank and direct with your critique. I thank you ahead of time for doing this. And I promise you, your feedback will find its way into the book.
I will be giving a talk that summarizes entire research in China at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University on Tuesday, Febuary 18 12:30pm EST. RSVP if you can come, otherwise it will be livestreamed and archived for the whole world to see.
A letter of gratitude
I started this dissertation on September 21, 2006, and finished it on October 22, 2013. For seven years, I moved through the world with a single-minded focus on my research. For each of the 2,224 days, I woke up thinking about my fieldwork. For each of the 3,706,960 minutes, my participants seeped into my bones and my dreams. For 223,603,200 seconds, I breathed this project until it became my skin.
I want to acknowledge all of those who have flowed into my life in such profound ways. This ritual of gratitude marks the shedding of one phase of my life and the beginning of a new one. While I didn’t keep an exact count of all the support I received, I do want to recognize as many as I can because, as with any complex project, a dissertation is the fruition of many people, not just a single writer.
My mentors shaped this project from its inception—Richard Madsen, Christena Turner and Barry Brown at UC San Diego. Their insights and criticisms are woven deeply into my analysis. I would not have stayed in this program if I did not have the most amazing committee supporting my goals and vision. So thank you Richard Madsen, Christena Turner, Barry Brown, Isaac Martin, Jim Hollan, April Linton, and Benjamin Bratton. In my attempt to break academic norms, you all convinced me that I can stay in academia on my own terms; intellectual rigor and curiosity can still happen in a public-facing manner. For me, your wisdom and encouragement has echoed some of the important points that Martin Schwartz has made to fellow academics about the challenges students face in Ph.D. programs:
First, I don’t think students are made to understand how hard it is to do research. And how very, very hard it is to do important research. It’s a lot harder than taking even very demanding courses. What makes it difficult is that research is immersion in the unknown. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We can’t be sure whether we’re asking the right question or doing the right experiment until we get the answer or the result… . Second, we don’t do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid—that is, if we don’t feel stupid it means we’re not really trying… . Science involves confronting our ‘absolute stupidity’. That kind of stupidity is an existential fact, inherent in our efforts to push our way into the unknown. (2008)
I also am grateful for other faculty members at UCSD who have provided support throughout the years: Gershon Shafir, Dan Hallin, Barry Naughton, Kwai Ng, and Richard Biernacki.You will find bits of your advice, seminars, and office hour discussions sprinkled throughout my work. The awesome staff who made the entire Sociology department at UCSD run seamlessly deserve a big acknowledgement: Beverly Bernhardt, Tanya Pohlson, Susan Taniguchi, Stephanie Navrides, and Katrina Koopman.
My research assistants, Pheona Chen 陈苇如, Reginald Zhu 祝进文, Iris Ruan 阮晓昱, Shayla Qiu 仇娟, Allemande Niu 牛兆弘, and Chris Chang 张旭平, played a seminal role in the fieldwork and analysis of this research. Watching them transform into skilled ethnographers is the greatest proof that so much creativity is fermenting under the outdated and restrictive social structures of China.
There are a few individuals who deserve a special shout out for their support. Leah Muse-Orlinoff has been with me since the first day I started this project in September 2006, bringing me endless laughter and scholarly rigmarole. Hours of long conversations over Skype, pho, and caldo with Leah shaped my research direction and analysis. (Leah, this next sentence is just for you.) Verka Serducka forever Гоп, гоп, гоп. чiда, гоп, А я спiваю. Гоп, гоп, гоп, чiда, гоп, А я танцюю Gop, Gop, Gop, Chida, Gop, A ya spivayu.
I am forever indebted to Jin Ge for being my first introduction to the city of Wuhan and some of my key participants. From our collaborations on World of Warcraft goldfarmers to researching internet cafes of Shanghai, I discovered so much of China through Jin Ge’s experiences. It is rare to meet a research colleague who is as generous as Jin Ge. I came to see Jin Ge’s family as my own family in China; they always took care of me with such love. Jin Ge introduced me to Xiao Tie 小铁 (辛颖) who, later introduced me to many of the people who would become my research assistants.
Silvia Lindtner and Gloria Xu always provided me with a home and a warm shower wherever they were in China. Gloria Xu also deserves an extra big thank you for all the translation expertise and cultural guidance she provided. Jack Qiu’s advice to always connect fieldwork to theory from our dinner in Hong Kong stayed with me throughout my travels. During my last year of research in China, I spent a lot of time with Professor Chou Changcheng 周长城 at Wuhan University’s Sociology department where I was made to feel at home.
I would like to give a big bear thank you to An Xiao Mina for the hours of phone calls and emotional support and for the friendship that emerged from our time together in China. danah boyd offered endless encouragement every time we saw each other and set up many opportunities for me to share my research. Lyn Jeffery’s constant reassurance gave me the confidence to keep going in times of doubt.
A big shout of gratitude goes to Ellen Seiter who encouraged me to pursue a PhD. Adriene Hughes’s friendship and hospitality gave me a refuge to which I could retreat in times of stress, so thank you for being there from the beginning to the end. Manny de la Paz is the best graduate director a program could have, not least because of his role as my unofficial therapist.
During the last year of writing, I nearly quit several times. But every time I thought I couldn’t make it, someone always intervened. Kevin Slavin gave me his entire apartment to use as my writing space. For 9 months, I would walk across Brooklyn from my place to his at 8 in the morning to write until 9 at night. When I needed to leave my city to concentrate on writing, Jess Goldfin and Claire Rice fought hard to find me a writing space in Boston, and even though it didn’t work out, I appreciate their efforts greatly. Likewise, Kavitha Rajagopalan, Susan Tratner, Guo Xinxin 郭欣, Zheng Xue Wu 鄭學武, and Nora Abousteit offered their apartments and offices for me to use while I was writing. Then when I thought I was too burnt out to find a place to finish my last phase of writing, Marisa Jahn and Doug Lasdon generously gave me their farmhouse in upstate New York for an entire summer. For three months, I worked in Marisa’s art studio, overlooking acres of land and forest, which provided me with just the right amount of isolation and inspiration.
When I had writer’s block, Miki Meek lent me a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which provided indispensible writing advice. Whenever I would get stuck, I recreated Lamott’s visual one-inch frame and pulled myself out of my rut. Martin Thörnkvist and his team at Media Evolution arranged a home for me in Malmö, Sweden to finish the last month of writing before I submitted the dissertation to my committee. All the wonderful people of Malmö, including Magnus Thure, Fredric Öslöf, Kajsa Bengston, Petter Karlsoon, Sara Frizton, and Jesper Berg, gave me so much energy during those last few weeks of writing.
Kate Miltner came on as my research consultant towards the final stages of editing and her comments drastically improved and clarified the theory of the Elastic Self. Clay Shirky provided an institutional home (and library access!) in NYC by offering me a fellowship at NYU’s Interactive Telcommunications Program. He also gave me great advice on how to better articulate the theory of the Elastic Self. My deepest appreciation is owed to Morgan Ames for all of her editing and feedback on early drafts and the methods chapter. Sean Kolodji’s copyediting has immensely improved the tone of my work. I am grateful to Jay Dautcher for taking my entire dissertation and formatting it into a readable document. During the last stretch of editing, Rocky Citro provided excellent technical editing tips and formatted the entire document to meet filing requirements (I would highly recommend his services!).
Many institutions provided support of the research activities reflected in this project. University of California Pacific Rim Research Fund gave me preliminary funding and another round of doctoral research funding. University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States provided generous support for research on technology use in rural areas. I am grateful to Bill Blanpied who played an important role in encouraging me to apply for National Science Foundation funding, which allowed me to conduct fieldwork inside China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). The folks at CNNIC were so generous with their time. In particular, Wang En Hai 王恩海 and Daniel 池大治 provided invaluable guidance.
The Fulbright Fellowship enabled me to conduct my last year of uninterrupted fieldwork. Under Janet Upton’s leadership, the Fulbright program was a constant source of support during my fieldwork in China. I am grateful to the entire Sociology Department at Wuhan University for hosting me. Thank you to Dan O’Sullivan and all those who run NYU’s Interactive Telcommunications Program for allowing me to have an institutional home. I am also grateful to the following institutions for fellowship and conference support: Worldwide University Network at Leeds University; Young Scholar Award for the China-India-US Workshop on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Workshop at the National Indian Institute of Science; the Asian Institute at the University of Toronto, Canada; and the Transatlantic 2020 Fellowship with the British Council.
My dissertation greatly improved from talks and presentations, including The Conference in Malmö, Sweden; Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions Conference at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, CA; International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy in Stockholm, Sweden; IDEO in Shanghai, China; Lift in Geneva, Switzerland; South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; Mobile Life in Stockholm, Sweden; Reboot’s Financial Inclusion in China’s panel in NYC, NY; Tumblr Arts panel with Hyperallergic in Brooklyn, NY; Webstock in Wellington, New Zealand; Microsoft in Beijing, China; and Microsoft’s Social Computing Conference in NYC, NY. Thank you to my speaking agent, Fons Tunistra at China Speaker’s Bureau for organizing opportunities for me to talk about my research.
I also want to thank all those who gave me opportunities to write about my fieldwork for a mainstream audience: Steve Daniels at Makeshift, David Rowan at Wired UK, and Leslie Jones at That’s Shanghai. Kaiser Kuo’s and Jeremy Goldkorn’s “Sinica Podcast” on Sex and Marriage gave me a chance to talk about my fieldwork as I was wrapping up the last few weeks of work. Speaking to Benjamen Walker on his podcast “Too Much Information” provided an excellent outlet to reflect on my fieldwork.
Thank you to Barry Brown and Jofish Kaye for setting up my research stint at Nokia, which allowed me to have unparalleled access to researchers who were also grappling with similar questions in a more commercial and applied context. Through my time at Nokia, I met some of my closest intellectual bosom buddies, Morgan Ames and Janet Go. I also met Ying Liu from Nokia Research Labs in Beijing who helped arrange my visits to the lab.
Thank you to those in China who provided me friendship and laughter during my fieldwork—it was a magical period and I look forward to many more memories—Jon Jablonski, Abi, Juan Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Xiao Tie, Ian Gross, Lily Zuo, Rebecca Kantor, Deng Fei 邓飞, Guo Xinxin 郭欣, Zheng Xue Wu 鄭學武, Lao Meng 孟繁永, Hudson Lockett, David Wertime, Angel Hsu, Angela Ni, Roger Ibars, Tony Toon 童声杨, Lisa Ma, Mary Bergstrom, Richard Kelly, Johan Lagerkvist, Neil Schmid, Marcel Green, Sarah Swider, Gregory Perez, Jan Chipchase, Danyll Willis, Benjamin Joffe, Kavitha Rajagopalan, Matthew Young, Alice Huang, Amelia Hendra, Jerome Goh, Graham Webster, James Landay, Dominic Tan, Elisa Oreglia, Gary Rieschel, William Moss, Philip Pan, Sue Tan, Jiashan Wu, Gregory Leuch, and Lokman Tsui.
Almost all of these people have listened to or read bits of my fieldwork in various forms. And for that, I thank them. But in addition to the people above, there’s a long list of others who have done the same. To these people, I gave thanks as well: Adriana Jacobs, Erin Cech, Clive Thompson, Paul Denlinger, Richard Burger, Adam Bluestein, Adam Greenfield, Jessi Levine, Mark Kaigwa, Benjamin Bacon, Lauren Anderson, Roger Sanjek, Nicolas Nova, Mark Warschauer, Benjamin Carlson, Debbi Evans, Kyle Smith, Mark Vanderbeeken, Panthea Lee, Sam Ladner, Geraldine de Bastion, Jake Barton, Liz Lawley, Lili Cheng, Roy Christopher, Alex Leavitt, Setsuko Matsuzawa, Ben Hammersley, Hrag Vartanian, Anna Jobin, Patricia Sunderland, Rita Denney, Karen Klein, Roger Magoulas, and Katie Marker.
The co-founders of Ethnography Matters, Heather Ford, Jenna Burrell, and Rachelle Annenchino created such an important community for me to bounce around ideas. I also thank Jason Li, of 88 Bar, for maintaining a community for those interested in Chinese media.
Even though this project documents my work in China, it builds on all of the fieldwork I have conducted around the world. From the families of rural Oaxaca to the teens of the South Bronx and the families of India—your voices are always with me.
Everyone I have mentioned so far provided advice, encouragement, help, sanity checks, and laughter along the way. There’s so many others colleagues, friends, and family who have also done the same. You may have texted me, DM'ed me, or a given some words of encouragement. Whatever it was, I remember it, and I thank you: Sunny Bates, Liane Baskin, Jakey Toor, Prerana Reddy, Zach Hyman, Che-Wei Wang, Taylor Levy, Baratunde Thurston, Zadi Diaz, Steve Woolf, Laura McCrum, Elspeth Roundtree, Brady Forrest, Joshua Kinbgerg, Tanya Menendez, Mohan Kanungo, Jeff Ferzoco, Grecia Lima, Donna Lazarus, Rebecca Tabasky, Craig Mod, Elisha Miranda, Jessica Cordova, Rich Radka, Ken Ikeda, Kati London, Jean Burgess, Rachel Parker, Roger Aerenstrup, Alex Pasterneck, David Cheng Chang, Ayman Shamma, Phillip Oxnam, Marisa Catalina Casey, Mary Gray, Tina Layton, Carlyle Leach, Vinay Gupta, Carla Borsoi, Kristen Joy Watts, Sarah Keane, Marcella Szablewicz, Melinda Theodore, Héctor Romero Ramos, Stephanie Little, Magnus Erikkson, Irina Shk, lovski, Mimi Ito, Calixte Tayoro, Dave Sylvia, Maggie Garner, Ajay Kapoor, Todd Lester, Alexandra Zobel, Hugo Espinel, Shannon Spanhake, Simon Roberts, Alexandra Mack, Christina Dennaoui, Audrey Evans, Normita Rodriguez, Emilia Wiles, Mia Diaz Edelman, Noel Hildago, Priya Parker, Bari Zahn, Michael Wang, Erica Tran-Wang, Emily Wang, Candice Shaw, Tanny Cheese, Marvin Cheese, and Sheila Frye.
I cannot forget to also thank all the canine creatures that have showered me endless doggy hugs, Elle, Lucy, Samba, Peso, Monkey, Jack, and Mia.
I am beyond grateful to my grandmother, 高為鳯, and grandfather, 黃孫鏗, for instilling in me a love for knowledge and justice.
To my partner, Kenyatta Cheese, who dealt with the difficulties of long periods of separation and always allowed me to be vulnerable, I give you an infinite galactic unicorn basket of gratitude.
When I embarked on this research in 2006, I started something that was seen as radical at the time – posting live updates, questions, and summaries to my tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. This ongoing collective input in the form of tweets, comments, and platform specific affirmations greatly improved my work and energized me. During my last stint of fieldwork in China, I started ‘live fieldnoting’ my work by posting daily pictures to Instagram with the hastag #bytesofchina. This allowed the public to see some of my pre-analysis observations and comment on them in a way that was immediate and useful. In addition, during the last year of writing, I posted one picture every day to Instagram with the tag #synthesisnow. Even though I didn’t personally know many of the people who liked and commented on my photos, what mattered was that I felt that I had a group of people cheering me on even when I was too tired to continue. Thank you. It meant so much that I could share my process with everyone.
Now that this project is done, I move on to the next phase with great encouragement from those who have who have helped me see the value of converting the work of this dissertation into a book – in particular: Nathan Englander, An Xiao Mina, Richard Madsen, Clay Shirky, Clive Thompson, Lyn Jeffery, Anand Giridharadas, Gary Rieschel, Philip Pan, Miki Meek, and Sunny Bates.
As I move forward, I will never forget what I owe to all of those who have allowed me into their lives, knowing that they would, in some way, be a part of my research. The many youth, parents, civil servants, strangers, entrepreneurs, street vendors, shopkeepers, corporate executives, and travelers who gave me invaluable leads, tidbits, and advice, are too numerous to each be mentioned here by name, so I thank them all collectively.
The story of China is a story of people’s perseverance, resilience, and fortitude balanced against a rapidly changing society. Because of that, it is a story that shares commonalities with those of other groups that have experienced massive change. The depth of the stories that I have heard has given me a great responsibility to make sure that I continue to share the stories with the world in the most authentic way possible. This dissertation is a start towards fulfilling that obligation, but I know that my job does not end here. The world is filled with stories and I’m going to continue to do my part to tell them.
Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media [download pdf]
Abstract: The sudden availability of social media and open-market capitalism is creating new spaces in China that are shifting norms and behaviors in unexpected ways. This research investigates and explains the phenomena of semi-anonymous interactions among Chinese youth in online communities by introducing a sociological framework called the Elastic Self, which is characterized by the feeling that one’s identity is malleable and involves the trying on of different identities that are beyond the realm of what would be considered normal displays of one’s prescribed self. In informal online spaces, Chinese youth have achieved greater freedom to express heterodox identities without shame or anxiety by forging social bonds with strangers and maintaining distance from people they know, who might seek to enforce conformity to a single identity prescribed by traditional social and political norms.
Through these informal interactions online, Chinese youth are laying the groundwork for a public sphere with social ties based more on friendship than on blood ties or guanxi; on trust, rather than fear; and on self-expression, rather than self-restraint. These changes have potentially transformative power for Chinese society as a whole by altering the way that people perceive and engage with each other on personal and social levels. Under semi-anonymous conditions, Chinese youth are able to overcome the low levels of trust that characterize authoritarian societies and adopt broader forms of social trust that characterize more participatory societies. This increased trust enables youth to enter what I call the Participatory Phase, which is defined by engagement in citizenship practices that expand the public sphere through online debate that can precipitate offline civic participation. To get to that stage, youth must first pass through two critical phases—Exploratory and Trusting—during which they learn how to share information with and socialize with strangers in a low-risk context.
My research reveals that by creating an Elastic Self, Chinese youth find ways to connect to each other and to establish a web of casual trust that extends beyond particularistic guanxi ties and authoritarian institutions. To be clear, this new form of sociality gives youth a way to navigate Chinese society, not to disconnect from or to rebel against it. In doing so, youth are building the infrastructure of a civil society by establishing relationships in which they start out as strangers, thereby bypassing potentially restrictive social labels and structures that could otherwise prevent connection. Through semi-anonymous informal interactions, Chinese youth are primarily seeking to discover their own social world and to create emotional connections—not grand political change. Rather than attempting to revolutionize politics, Chinese youth are using these new forms of social engagement to revolutionize their relationships with themselves and each other.
Even though Chinese youth do not feel that internet censorship is a hindrance in their everyday lives, real name identification policies that limit communication to formal interactions threatens the viability of crucial informal online spaces where Chinese youth have been able to freely explore their identities. The future of the Chinese internet and Chinese society at large rests in this very tension that Chinese youth are negotiating between finding informal spaces where they can present an Elastic Self and formal spaces where they feel compelled to present a prescribed identity. The social and emotional changes catalyzed by the Elastic Self can only persist if the circumstances that allow them to flourish remain unencumbered.