Chen and Reese’s book project


TransnationalNetworks and Civic Engagement In China

Wenhong Chen

Dept of Radio-TV-Film,College of Communication, UT Austin

Steve Reese

School of Journalism, Collegeof Communication, UT Austin


Aim and Scope

The Internet and digital media have becomeconduits and locales where millions of Chinese share information and engage increative expression and social participation. In China there are more than 400million Internet users and more than 750 million mobile phone users (CNNIC2011). The Arab Spring and the relative lack of response in China highlightonce again the importance of understanding the implications of digital mediaand technologies in rich social and historical contexts.

Yet, compared to theirgrowing prevalence and significance, research on the contingent, non-linear,and sometimes paradoxical impacts of digital media and technologies in Chinesesocieties remains theoretically underdeveloped and empirically understudied.Departing from existing studies centered on censorship or online activism, thisproposed book would cast a wider net and explore how citizens in Chinanavigate, negotiate, and transform social landscapes in the digital age.

Chapter authors areencouraged to update prevailing theoretical frameworks and revisit theprosumption of digital media and their implications for transnational networksand civic engagement. It aims to reveal both the transformative power andlimitations of the Internet and other new communication technologies. The bookcalls for theory-driven empirical research with scholarly and policy relevance inChina. It welcomes chapters engaging with diverse theoretical and empiricalapproaches, especially interdisciplinary and comparative research. Chapterswould be organized around three components: digital media access and use,transnational networks, and civic engagement.

Mapping theTerrain: Digital Media Practices: What are thepatterns of digital media access and use in China? What are the impacts of persistentcensorship and aggressive marketization on digital media access and use in China?

Exploring GlocalizedTransnational Networks: What are the patterns ofglocalized transnational networks straddling boundaries of geography,identities, and issues? How do digital technologies and media allow localactors to form glocalized transnational networks in the cloud and on theground? How do access to and memberships in such networks vary by class,gender, generation, urban-rural gap as well as differential digital mediaskills and literacy?

Understanding Civic Engagementonline and offline: Howdo digital mediated communication and interactions contributeto an informed, connected, and engaged public in China? To what extent dodigital media and technologies facilitate transparency and enhance the visibility of oppressed groups, inparticular in comparison with print and broadcast mediaunder tighter government control? Towhat extent do glocalized transnational networks affect access and mobilizationof resources for social development and changes?



Chapter authors are invited to participate ina New Agendas conference atUniversity of Texas at Austin in Fall 2013 to gather,present, and help strengthen each other’s work for publication.  As such, a draft chapter submission is requiredfrom participants prior to the conference. Travel and lodging expenses for participants will be covered.


Logistics and timeline

The book will be published inthe New Agendas in Communication Series by Routledge in 2014.

The book would be about 250-300pages, with 8-12 chapters. The final manuscript would be delivered by the endof 2013.

TheNew Agendas in Communication Series is intended to advance several importantgoals: (1) call attention to important new areas of study and stimulate neededforms of intellectual inquiry; (2) accelerate the research careers of theconference participants and build community across disciplinary divides for animportant young cohort. Chapter authors should be junior scholars includingrecent tenured associated professors, assistant professors, and advanced Ph.Dstudents.

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