China: Isaac Mao #twinterviews Hu Yong

Those faithfully following the #China Twitter stream late on the working day on Thursday were treated to a surprise when Isaac Mao began twinterviewing Peking University associate professor of new media Hu Yong, author of several books related to Internet theory and culture.

From Mao's blog, Isaac 2.0, here is the transcript:

#1 作為中國最早感知互聯網浪潮的一撮人,當時和現在有什么差別?

Q1: As one of the earliest few people in China to sense the Internet wave coming, how do things differ now from back then?
A1: At the time it was Adam and Eve and a simple garden; now, “Paradise Lost” has become a jungle. The law of the jungle prevails.

#2 可是《數字化生存》并沒有考慮到那么多復雜情況,是否還是過于理想?

Q2: Yet in “Being Digital”, things don't seem so complicated, was it perhaps too idealistic?
A2: The main point in “Being Digital” was to point out that the society of the future would be constructed of bits, and not atoms. This can explain why so many industries today are in such dire straits, and can also explain why the Chinese government spends such vast human and material resources in patching up the wall. Of course, at that time, I was just as much an optimist as Negroponte, still believing in “shiny, happy bits”.

#3 可是我還是有疑問,尤其對中國,比特對傳統的思維催生變化了嗎?

Q3: But I'm still skeptical, especially with regards to China; will bits bring about change in traditional thinking?
A3: Changing traditional thinking won't happen overnight. Bits have launched a process of rising cacophony: once we were completely silent, but with the first opportunity to speak, nobody is just talking, they're shouting. But we can't undervalue the role of speaking: it's the cure for a psychological wound, curing the wound inflicted on China by a thousand years of autocracy.

#4 正要問《眾聲喧嘩》這本書,大家是喧嘩了,可是獲取手段多的人似乎更焦慮,那么沒有信息的人似乎反倒很安逸,這是真諦嗎?

Q4: I want to ask about your book “The Rising Cacophony”. Everybody is making noise, and those with the most access to it seem to be the most worried, while yet those people who lack information seem to be the calmeste, does that sound true to you?
A4: Good question! Which is, why are those with more information the ones having the most dialogue and discussion. Sometimes, we arm ourselves to death with new technology; caught up in the embrace of technology as such, we forget about the fundamentals of society. China today needs to discuss a series of fundamental problems within society; a civilization which refuses to discuss major problems, if it doesn't lead to totalitarianism, then it leads itself to death.

#5 你的電視媒體實踐也產生了很多影響,例如CCTV-2的變化(我叫#CCAV),是否更有相互比較的意味

Q5: Your experience in television media has had great impact, such as the changes at CCTV-2. Between the two, which has comparatively more significance?
A5: I object to any stance which advocates not watching, visiting, listening to or talking about CCTV news, propaganda programs or websites, because every inch of territory is worth fighting for.

#6 在《草根不盡》報告導讀中,講了媒體和權力的關系,新媒體似乎更激進地改變這種關系,但是也被有效地鉗制在一定強度內,縱觀媒體史,會亘古不破嗎?

Q6: In the Info-Rhizome report, you say that within the relationship between media and authority, new media seems to more radically change this kind of relationship, but at the same time are constricted within a certain degree of influence; looking at the history of media, can that ever change?
A6: Foucault once said that, “[w]hat makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that is doesn't only weigh on us as a force that says no; it also traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produces discourse.” New media, however, revolts against the high-handedness of “no”, but also revolts against the traversal of “yes”; which is why we must remember Orwell, and definitely mustn't forget Huxley.

#7 在美國,傳統媒體產業已經惶惶不可終日,四處尋找出路,這種先發焦慮是不是更有利于中國媒體軟轉型?

Q7: In America, traditional media are nearing their end of days, searching everywhere for a way out. Does this sort of early anxiety signal well for the soft transition of media in China?
A7: The transition will be much easier for periodicals and books, because they are more highly market-oriented; television will find it more difficult, because of now abnormally television is structured in China, burdened by both ideology and monopoly. Regardless, an investment of forty-five billion RMB for external propaganda will not encourage transformation.

#8 这个外宣媒体让我很困惑的,是不是会解决很多外国人就业的问题?

Q8: This external propaganda media leaves me feeling quite confused; is it supposed to create jobs for a lot of foreigners?
A8: Journalism professor at the University of Southern California Nicholas Cull put it very precisely. He said that the Chinese government has relied on newspapers, television and cultural exchanges in a series of attempts at what is called “internal propaganda through external propaganda”. Put another way, the way the Chinese government sees it, letting the Chinese people see that Chinese culture is being promoted to the entire world is the most important. Many people doubt the effects of propaganda, seeing it as barking up the wrong tree.

#9 那么中国教授呢?在教室里,是否也需要時常自我審查?尺度是什么?

Q9: What about Chinese academics then? In the classroom, do they regularly need to self-censor? And what is the yardstick for that?
A9: Yardstick? No different than that for media, it extends as far as people are willing to probe. Back in the day, there was a joke in America about the definition of obscene material: ‘Obscene material? I know it when I see it.‘ In China, whether speech is inappropriate or illegal, goes about the same.

#10 如果倒退回20年,有互联网,是不是社会看上去比今天更乐观一些?

Q10: If the Internet had been around twenty years ago, do you think society would have been a bit more optimistic than it is today?
A10: Haha, back to the future…..the eighties were the best years of China over the past sixty years. Back then, we at least had the “Two Majors”, the ‘Major Affairs The People Need To Know’ and ‘Major Affairs The People Need To Discuss'…if you think about it, using the Internet fulfills both the Two Majors, isn't that a bit more optimistic?


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