“Liberating Technologies”: Digital Cultures of Protest in China

Digital Conversations Research Seminar: Arts and Cultural Management Program

“Liberating Technologies”: Digital Cultures of Protest in China

Dr Rachel Marsden (University of Melbourne) | Justine Poplin (Victoria University)
Curated by Dr Natalia Grincheva

Date: October 18, 2017 | Time: 12.30pm-1.30pm

Venue: Arts West, Digital Studio (Level 2), the University of Melbourne

How has the digital era changed the power dynamics between governments and publics? What happens beyond the Great Firewall of China? This seminar draws examples from the Occupy Movements and uprising Digital Memes sub culture to explore how cultures of protest in China manifest through “liberating technologies” of digital media.


12th International Conference on the Arts in Society Research Network:: American University of Paris,14-16 June 2017

Mapping the Meme in China: Online and Offline Signification

In the 21st century access to a fragmented culture through online portals has created a somewhat scattered heteronomy of visualities. The use of gesture in visual culture can be related to an action, a symbol, or solely for the image to have "an effect" on the audience. As these visual gestures grow and propagate through our art galleries, museums and online social media feeds, are we able to read this emergent visual grammar to motivate, move or elevate our ways of knowing? This paper explores symbolism created in Mainland China in 2009 - 2016 and investigates ways of articulating and deciphering these gestures through accessing cultural keys. The creation of the new symbolism is rooted in political relevance and deploys practices and art forms to signal, dissolve and raise awareness of social and ideological change.

The study maps the symbolism to test the claim that over time some symbols may loose potency. Findings will be related through a synthesis of semiotic/compositional interpretation and multimodal discourse analysis. The aim of the study is to deepen the Western perspective on Chinese stereotypes in visual culture by working with, and interpreting cultural flows in the digital age.

Keywords: Visual Culture, Internet Memes, Chinese Art

Stream: Special Theme 2017: Gestures that Matter 


Cultures of Knowledge: Creative Economy and China.

The Summer School + Conference is an initiative of the Digital China Lab. Both events are supported by the Centre for Culture and Technology (CCAT) and the School of Media Culture and Creative Arts (MCCA) at Curtin University.

Presented paper title:

Myth, meme and meaning: mapping the meme in China, online and offline signification


As a result of rapid digital innovation in recent years within the Chinese blogging community, a new generation of makers are creating and utilising traditional and digital visual cultural forms for extending communication values. This rise in sharing ideas online by amateur and or anonymous producers has invigorated the co-creation of new symbols; including memes, icons, artefacts and goods of desire. Online co-creation portals move knowledge faster than ever before, albeit the widespread censorship policies in Mainland China. The rise in this way of communicating signifies new ways of communicating creatively, reflecting how powerful the internet is in connecting people, ideas and community. Furthermore, the movement of new symbolism generated online now moves into broader visual culture realms offline, signifying that the internet is a driver for new forms of creative currency reflecting newfound ideologies in the digital age. This research paper examines and maps online co-creation, the dissemination and consumption of Chinese visual culture; including, new symbols/memes, online video and artefacts.

New Heroes, Ideological Shifts and Chinese Visual Culture
Justine Poplin

Poplin explores the hero and new symbolism in 21st century mainland China. Online social media culture is a testing ground for visual metaphors that represent changing tides in China in the digital age. Poplin argues that a new hero has risen from online collective co-creation.

  E-Journal of the National Academy of Screen and Sound   ISSN 1833-0533

E-Journal of the National Academy of Screen and Sound
ISSN 1833-0533