Chinese Cyberculture

Instructor: Anna Greenspan
Office: 938
Office Hours: Office Hours: Tuesday 1-3 or by appointment. 

Course Description

This course examines the crucial, complex and conflicted relationship between China and the Internet. We explore tensions between connectivity and control, imitation and innovation, and the real and virtual as they manifest in three main areas:

1) the firewall and netizens;
2) the online and electronic economy;
3) Internet addiction and our increasing immersion in the virtual world.


10% Participation
20 % Blog Posts (5% x 4)
15% Reading Tests (5% x 3)
10 % Group presentations (5% x 2) Games + Online Economy
5% Research Topic Presentation
10% Research Proposal
10% Research Presentation
20% Final Paper

Recommended Websites

Week 1:

Mon:  Introduction
Sinica Podcast, Gady Epstein on the Internet with Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn,

Wed: The Great Firewall
Geremie R. Barme and Sang Ye, The Great Firewall of China, Wired, June 1997

James Fallows, The Connection Has Been Reset, Atlantic Monthly, March 2008

Rebecca Mackinnon, Inside China’s Censorship Machine, National Post, July 29, 2012

Charles Q Choi, The Surprising Way in Which China Censors the Internet, Popular Mechanics, Aug 21, 2014

Week 2: 

Mon: Netizens

Guobin Yang, China’s Gradual RevolutionNew York Times, March 13 2011 (handout)

Guobin Yang, China’s Gradual Revolution, New York Times, March 13 2011

Perry Link. A Message Too Powerful to Stop, New York Times, September 29 2010

Wed: Humor & Creativity

Yu Hua, The Spirit of May 35th, New York Times,  June 23 2011

Evan Osnos, The Han Dynasty, New Yorker, July 4 2011

Brook Larmer, Where an Internet Joke is Not Just a Joke, New York Times, October 26 2011

Guobin Yang, The Curious Case of Jia Junpeng, or The Power of Symbolic Appropriation in Chinese Cyberspace , China Beat, Oct 20 2009

Han Han on Freedom, Democracy and Revolution, translated online at

Hongmei Li, Parody and Resistance on the Chinese Internet in Online Society in China : Creating, Celebrating, and Instrumentalising the Online Carnival (eds. Herold, David Kurt, and Marolt, Peter Wolfgang)

Week 3: 

Mon: Topic Presentations

Wed: Research Proposal Workshop

Week 4: 

Mon: The Nature of Networks 1

Mcluhan, Marshall: The Medium is the Massage

Wed: The Nature of Networks 2 

John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Tim Wu. The Master Switch. (Extracts)

Week 5:

Mon: Control
Can China Conquer the Internet
: A China File Conversation:

Sinica Podcast, Internet Wrangling in Wuzhen, Kaiser Kuo with Rogier Creemers

Creemers, Rogier,  China’s Internet Gambit, China US Focus. December 12 2014

Cultural Convulsions – Examining the Chineseness of Cyber China – Wai-chi, Rodney Chu and Chung-tai Cheng Creating the Carnival: Netizens and the State Online Society in China : Creating, Celebrating, and Instrumentalising the Online Carnival (eds. Herold, David Kurt, and Marolt, Peter Wolfgang)

Wed: Guest Speaker: TBA

First Blog Post Due

Week 6:

Mon: Reading Test

Wed: The Future of the Internet

Mark Weiser – The Computer of the 21st Century

The Creepy New Wave of the Internet, The New York Review of Books,

Kevin Kelly. What Technology Wants (Excerpts)

Research Proposal Due

Week 7:

Mon: Future Imaginings

Gibson, William, Burning Chrome , Burning Chrome

Gibson, William, The Gernsbeck Continuum , Burning Chrome

Wed: The Online Economy: Group Presentations

Gady Epstein, Ours, all ours, The Economist. April 6 2013

April Rabkin. The Facebooks of China.” Fast Company. January 2011

John Watling, China’s Internet Giants Lead in Online Finance, The Financialist, February 14 2014

Charles Clover, Chinese Internet: Mobile wars, Financial Times, March 19 2014.

Dorinda Elliott, Tencent: The Secretive Chinese Tech Giant that can rival Facebook and Amazon,  Fast Company, April 17 2014 

Bloomberg: Businessweek, Tencent: March of the Penguins,  Aug 04, 2011

What is Alibaba? Wall Street Journal

Alibaba IPO: Innovative Chinese Style, Wall Street Journal, September 16, 2014

Robert D Hof, A Chinese Internet Giant Starts to Dream,  MIT Technology Review, Aug 14 2014 

Gilley, Bruce. “Huawei’s Fixed Line to Beijing.” Far Eastern Economic Review (2001): 94-98.

Ahrens, Nathaniel. “Case Study: Huawei.” China’s Competitiveness: Myth, Reality, and Lessons for the United States and Japan. N.p.: Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2013.

Week 8: 

Mon: Made in China

Boy Luthje, Stefanie Hurtgen, Peter Pawlicki and Martina Sproll “From Silicon Valley to Shenzhen” in From Silicon Valley to Shenzhen Global Production and Work in the IT Industry

Chang, Leslie, Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (Excerpts)

Wed: Shanzhai

Bobbie Johnson. Shanzhai! Wired, July 12 2010

Sky Canaves and Juliet Ye Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Rebellion in China, Wall Street Journal, Jan 22 2009

Emelyn Baker, Shanzhai Digest

Bunnie Huang, Tech Trend: Shanzhai, bunniesstudio, February 26 2009 Shanzhai gongmo

Josephine Ho, Shanzhai: Economic/Cultural Production through the Cracks of Globalization, Crossroads 2010 Plenary Speech

Yu Hua, “Copycat,” China in Ten Words,  Anchor Books, 2011

Seely Brown, John and John Hagel, Innovation Blowback, Disruptive Management  Practices From Asia, McKinsey, February 2005

Post by Clay Shirky

Silvia Lindtner, Anna Greenspan and David Li, Shanzhai: China’s Collaborative Electronics Design Ecosystem, The Atlantic, May 18, 2014

Week 9:

Mon:  Field Trip: Electronic Market

Wed: Maker Culture

A Third Industrial Revolution,The Economist, April 21st 2012

Gershenfeld, Neil, How to Make Almost Anything, Foreign Affairs, November 2012

Anderson, Chris, In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits, Wired, January 25, 2010

Lindnter, Silvia and David Li, Created in China: The Makings of China’s Hackerspace Community, Interactions, XIX. 6 November/December, 2012

Week 10:  

Mon: Reading Quiz 

Wed: Research Presentations

Week 11:  

Mon: Research Presentations

Wed:Research Presentations

Week 12: 

Mon: Games

Ian Bogost. How to Do Things With Video Games, (Book)

Alexander Galloway, Gaming Action, Four Moments in Essays on Gaming Culture

Wed: Gaming Guest Speaker

Week 13: 

Mon: Game Presentation

Wed:  Screening: Web Junkie

Week 14: 

Mon:  Simulation

Bostrom, Nick, Are you living in a Computer Simulation

Francis, Matthew,Is this Life Real. Aeon Magazine

Victoria Turk, Simulated Worlds Will Soon Be Indistinguishable from Reality, Motherboard.

Wed:  Reading Test 

Final Blog Post Due

* Final Paper Due in Exam Period

Course Guidelines:

This is a seminar style class in which active participation is essential. You are expected to come to class having read all the required readings and having carefully thought about them.

Unless stated otherwise, computers and cell phones are not allowed in class.

Unexplained absences, late arrivals, and lack of engagement will negatively impact your grade.

Assignments must be emailed on the due date. Unless an extension has been granted, late assignments will be penalized at 2% per day.


A = Excellent. This work is comprehensive and detailed, integrating themes and concepts from discussions, lectures and readings. Writing is clear, analytical and organized. Arguments offer specific examples and concisely evaluate evidence. Students who earn this grade are prepared for class, synthesize course materials and contribute insightfully.

B = Good. This work is complete and accurate, offering insights at general level of understanding. Writing is clear, uses examples properly and tends toward broad analysis. Classroom participation is consistent and thoughtful.

C = Average. This work is correct but is largely descriptive, lacking analysis. Writing is vague and at times tangential. Arguments are unorganized, without specific examples or analysis. Classroom participation is inarticulate.

D = Unsatisfactory. This work is incomplete, and evidences little understanding of the readings or discussions. Arguments demonstrate inattention to detail, misunderstand course material and overlook significant themes. Classroom participation is spotty, unprepared and off topic.

 F = Failed. This grade indicates a failure to participate and/or incomplete assignments.

A = 94-100
A- = 90-93
B+ = 87-89
B = 84-86
B- = 80-83
C+ = 77-79
C = 74-76
D+ = 67-69
D = 64-66
 F = 63 and below

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