Digital China's Informal Circuits
Platforms, Labour and Governance
From open source cultures, piracy, to amateur media and on-demand labour, informal media activities are vibrant in circuits of cultural production, distribution, consumption and labour utilisation in China. They come in different sizes and shapes, involve multiple actors, often with transnational ties and tensions, and challenge polemic views. Why do these informal activities occur, and how do they evolve? What cultural and social consequences do they have? In what ways do they pose challenges to governance and provoke us to rethink the notion? This book engages with diverse forms of the informal and their equally diverse interactions with the formal in the broader context of the rise of digital platforms, the contingent and complicated state–market interactions, and evolving roles of users. The book provides a vivid and original account of how digital platforms navigate formal and informal boundaries at both operational and discursive levels; how enthusiastic fans, aspiring amateurs, 'ordinary' users and necessity-driven labourers become integral to the formal/informal interface; and how state and non-state actors intervene in governing the formal/informal dynamics. In doing so, the book opens up new insights into the ongoing digital transformation in China.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Repackaged informality and norm-based governance: from shanzhaiji to open source-powered smartphones
Chapter 3 In and out of shadows: negotiating boundaries and legitimacy in mobile app distribution
Chapter 4 Swinging pendulums: from the "Wild West" to content matrix on online video platforms
Chapter 5 Aspirations, precarity and agency: creative labour in the formalising internet literature market
Chapter 6 Between entrenched and smart informalities: ride-hailing platforms and governance challenges
Chapter 7 Conclusion
Elaine Jing Zhao is Senior Lecturer in the School of the Arts and Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
Digital China's Informal Circuits: Platforms, Labour and Governance was awarded the Dean’s Research Award 2020 for Best Monograph by an Early Career Researcher in the category of Academic Excellence by the University of Sydney, Australia.
In Digital China’s Informal Circuits, Elaine Zhao offers an exciting and informative analysis on the often-neglected informal economy, secondary market and alternative forms of production and practices of digital culture in China. From open source cultures and piracy to amateur labor and media, Zhao argues that such informalities—and the dialectics between the informalities and the formalities--have hammered out a more complex and dynamic cultural condition in contemporary China. - Anthony Fung, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Beijing Normal University
Digital China’s Informal Circuits: Platforms, Labour and Governance provides readers with a critical perspective on how China’s information and communication technologies are at the leading edge of disruptive innovation. In this readable and comprehensive book Elaine Zhao describes how multiple players and publics strategize to position themselves between formal and the informal economies against the backdrop of a society undergoing massive digital transformation. - Michael Keane, Curtin University Australia