Stuck in a child’s playground
December 1, 2007 11:12 PM   Subscribe

Is Web2.0 a wash for free speech in China? "Lately I've given a few talks around town titled 'Will the Chinese Communist Party Survive the Internet?' My answer - for the short and medium term at least - is 'yes.'"
posted by Abiezer (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how AJAX, muted colors, and rounded boxes are going to do anything for free speech anywhere.

The more interesting point raised in the article is that censorship is somewhat random and unpredictable. It wouldn't be so bad if China had a list of taboo topics and uniform responses to them. Instead, there is mass anarchy with sporadic and sometimes excessively harsh enforcement.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:27 PM on December 1, 2007

At least the rounded corners will make the punishments less cruel.
posted by wendell at 12:34 AM on December 2, 2007

I'm not sure you've thought that one through, wendell...
posted by motty at 1:07 AM on December 2, 2007

so dissidents will now be the victim of tortr?
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:11 AM on December 2, 2007 [6 favorites]

Professor, the quality of your insight is exactly as one would imagine from your credentials. Beyond that, I have absolutely nothing to say.

This is the lone comment. The more I reread it the spookier it gets.
posted by motty at 1:14 AM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

As the article says, this idea was brought up last week in a talk by blogger Michael Anti. The links are well worth watching/reading: his talk; a summary by Ethan Zuckerman.

Although I'm not sure I totally agree with the "end of blogs" scenario, I'm not sure what sort of a difference it would make for people who aren't techies, blogging reporters, or activists. In my impression, technologies like small forums and mailing lists are probably adequate for most people's purposes. Small-time bloggers who just want to share conversation with a circle of friends (China's portals have gone to great lengths to re-create the small-time feel of a more intimate forum through sub-boards and blog circles, for example) will just keep on doing what they're doing without being moved to action.

Internet users are accustomed to getting around the annoyance of keyword filters, and the substitutions they use don't really impact the immediate conversation. It's only when you're trying to search back through what's already been posted that things get difficult: the real words are filtered or blocked, and you have no way of knowing who used what substitution. In a way, there's quite a bit of room for free speech, but there are tight limits on how far your voice will carry.
posted by zhwj at 1:29 AM on December 2, 2007

"Professor, the quality of your insight is exactly as one would imagine from your credentials. Beyond that, I have absolutely nothing to say."

This is the lone comment. The more I reread it the spookier it gets.

Holy crap, you're right. There's something subtly off about it. The tone reminds me of a charismatic supervillain, or possibly a cyberstalker.

Or maybe I just need some sleep...
posted by Rhaomi at 1:46 AM on December 2, 2007

I think you have the rights of it there, zhwj, about smaller circles meeting most purposes, but in another way that's the disappointment (as I think you hint at the end there) - there's not much greater scope for fully public conversation and sharpening of debate than there was twenty years ago face to face or through different media, despite the promise of the technology.
I agree that comment at the site came off as very weird.
posted by Abiezer at 2:25 AM on December 2, 2007

Always love your China posts, Abbadabba.
posted by Wolof at 4:38 AM on December 2, 2007

Somehow web2.0 and ant farmer protests go together.
posted by srboisvert at 5:22 AM on December 2, 2007

Censorship (mostly) effects the educated and financial elite. If The Party falls, they won't be the ones pulling it down. After all, for whom did all those shady real estate acquisitions that purchased the land under their high-rises happen for?
posted by trinarian at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2007

"Hey, think anyone will give a shit about my blog post?"
"Probably not. You should throw 'web 2.0' in the title to score some eyes."
"Fantastic, let's go get some Red Lobster."
posted by arnold at 9:37 AM on December 2, 2007

motty: great, now I'm paranoid.

Interesting article, Abiezer. Thanks for posting!

(Looking forward to the discussion this will hopefully generate)
posted by Phire at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2007

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