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Who Survived the Cinternet – Case Studies to Chinese Websites

Thanks for Professor Urs Gasser’s invitation. I am allowed to sit in his course of “Online Law and Business in a Globalized Economy” at Harvard Law School, and get an opportunity to present some understanding to Chinese websites. Because of the limited time slot, I just partly introduced the slides in the class. Therefore, here is a more comprehensive version for those who are interested in.

 

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Hillary Clinton said that “We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.” I love this vision, but it is not a truth of the Internet. 幻灯片2

It is untrue not only because the dicky openness of a specific network may be destroyed abruptly (The Internet access in Xinjiang, a northwest region in China three times bigger than Califonia, was simply cut out over 6 months after the mob riot and bloody fight between nationalities), but also because the essence of the Internet: It is inter-net, the Network of Networks. It can be described as an information transmission/communication network composed of many autonomous systems. ARPANET, MILNET, Cyclades (France) and NPL (UK) formed the first generation of the Internet (see the video). More autonomous systems then have been setup and joined the Internet – They joined the Internet by accepting the TCP/IP and other protocols. But this does not mean that they have the same policy on the authority to access and the attitude to the network security.

Similiarly, I name the concept of “Cinternet” to the autonomous network in China.  It could be isolated from the other parts of the Internet infrastructurally, linguistically, politically and even culturally. Recently, the trend of such isolation seems jumped from the level of technological blocking to the level of institutional denying. Contrast to Hillary’s vision, this seems to be an existence, no matter “bad” or “good”. It is there.

A Video on the History of the Internet [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hIQjrMHTv4 ]:

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Google announced that it will not go on filtering the results of web search because it’s E-mail service is attacked. The logic is not that straight forward, but it works at least on emphasizing the not evil slogan. In my view, it is not only the said attacking, but also the anxiety of the culture shock lead Google’s activities. Google is still using its American imagination: fight or obedient, agree or disagree.

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Let’s back to the business. Google’s anxiety in China (as well as Yahoo!’s leaving) may be reasoned by the wrongful understanding to Chinese netizens’ demands and surfing usage, which reflect the Chinese culture and social structure.

Let’s start from a comparision between Baidu.com and Google.com:

Besides the advantage of focusing on the Chinese search engine, Baidu has the totally differenct philosophy from Google. Baidu runs pay for placement service (if you pay for some keywords, your link will be among the first few items of the search result of those keywords, with an “Ads” symbol), while google earns money mainly from Adsense (An Ads system automatically match the page). Baidu provides PostBar and MP3 dowloading as its killer applications, whereas Google develops its applications around the E-mail service (including Gtalk and Wave), which is the core of the US netizens’ online life.

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Google can hire people who understand Chinese culture. But with the strong value oriented mission setting atomosphere, Google’s headquater obviously often conflicted with its Chinese management team. The result is: Chinese Google (Google.cn) is separated from Google’s world, not because of the gov’s censorship, but because of the misunderstanding on what is a good, attractive and sustainable web service for Chinese customers.

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I wish the following websites may be helpful for understanding the unique enviroment of “Cinternet”. The first one is Tianya.cn. Tianya is the most popular and most crowded online forum in China. It’s traffic is ranked No. 90 in the world (Alexa). Click here for more.

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Tianya’s virtual community has a few unique features contributing to its flourish and survival: 幻灯片8

(1)  It has a huge group of volunteer forum-board masters who are in charge of deleting/hiding the defamatory, dissenting and – most specially – inappropriate posts. The board masters are mostly the famous IDs (in many cases most of users don’t know who the people is in real world), they are famous and reliable only because of their reputation established in Tianya.

(2) The un-deletable and un-editable mechanism. No one can delete/edit his/her own posts at the forum boards, even a board master can only manage the posts at his/her board – as a user in other boards, he can do nothing but posting new threads as a normal user. 

(3) If users think a board master is not appropriate, they may leave the complaint at the manage board – and if those complaints are reasonable, the higher webmaster may decide to suspend the board master’s authority – just like the mechanism of “petition” in China’s real life.

(4) Look at that strucutre map again. It’s “separation of the power” looks very like the actual life in China.

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Now this is QQ.comQQ.com is ranked the world 11th website on the matter of traffics (remember, the traffic among the QQ clients are not counted in). Contrary to Google’s matrix based on search engine and E-mail, QQ’s world is based on Instant Message. It is a close system, not providing open API.

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Taobao is not a Chinese Ebay. On the contrary, Ebay’s Chinese branch has been defeated by Taobao. See the above comparision. Alipay, Taobao’s payment tool, archieved over 1.2 billion RMB (171 million USD) of the value of transactions per day on Dec 7th 2009, among its over 200 million users.

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Named after a spice used in Szechuan cooking, Douban allows Chinese consumers to share, tag and browse through one another’s collection of books, music, and movies.

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The contents in Douban are mostly user generated. However Douban is distinct from Youtube: only comments to the items (books, movies and music albums) are posted on the website. In each item’s page, Douban provides the links to the online bookstores (including Amzon’s Chinese site). The prices are easily compared in an item’s page.

Douban’s biggest distinction from the SNS (like facebook) is: it is not a real-name network. Therefore, it is mainly not for social  and personal networking, but for public expression. Besides the review tab in each item’s pages, users can also establish groups and invite others join. There are thousands of groups and thousands of entries are posted every day. Because most users are in anonymous, discussions are very interest-oriented and open-hearted.

If there were no censorship, Douban might be a good platform to form a classic “public sphere”. However, douban enforces a very strict self-censorship policy. Any thread that may “threat the operation of douban in China” will be hidden (only the author can read). The groups include too much “in-harmonious” topics will be closed by douban’s staff – or be hidden and only the members of the group may read those threads. It is obvious that Douban’s operator does not want this websited be involved into any political debate.

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The above is a conclusion to the features of successful websites in China. Practcially speaking, these might be useful for those who wish to invest their money and energy into the Internet industry in China.

Back again to the overall abstract discussion, the world might be flatted by emergence of the Internet, but when more and more parts of this convergence of pink, blue, black or bloody world involve themselves into the Internet, the basic feature of the inter-net as a network of various autonomous systems may be at least continue to be a existence, if not a growing trend, in the new decade. And, with all due desire to the open and equal access to the Internet, I still doubt that the vision of a “single” Internet that believe people must love facebook, twitter and Google wave could be a realist approach to archive that aim.

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iPad is coming … Even in the same culture and society, Apple’s world can be so distinct from the PC’s world (they both connected into the Internet). Imaging how big distinction of the Cinternet’s could be.

Cyberpluralism?

I just read Tim Hwang’s essay on the “Berkman School”. It is very interesting although I am not a fan of categorizing “schools”. He says Berkmanites tend to share the notion that the Internet has specific configuration of features, such as openess, freedom and unfathomably deepness. Hence the fire-walled China’s Internet might not be regarded as “The Internet”.

This might be correct when one asks the Berkmanties what is the “ought to” Internet in their minds. While as a Berk-freshman, I’d rather considering what is the truth of the Internet. In my suspicion, the nuance or even major variety of cyber ecology among different countries/cultures/languages/regimes is unavoidable and has actually been formed for years. Considering the 1 billion accounts of QQ, the seperation of the Internet, the isolation of various version of “Internet” seems not merely a trend but also a truth. The problems seems not only “what are the features of the Internet distinct from the pre-internet society”, but also “To each pre-internet community, what are the features of the Internet respectively.”

Rebecca MacKinnon says there is a “Cyber-tarianism” not uniquely in Chinese Internet sphere. I am waiting for reading that. Nevertheless, I assume there is a trend of Cyber-ANY-isms emerging from everywhere. At this stage, shall we take a “cyber-pluralism” into account firstly?

Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group Event

Just a cross-post from Berkman Website. I am going to talk at Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group monthly Meeting on 2 December 2009. The content of my talk will be posted later.


6:00 pm – 8:30 pm, Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Conference Room 202, Berkman Center
23 Everett St 2nd Floor, Cambridge, MA
Please RSVP to Herkko Hietanen at herkko.hietanen@hiit.fi before 12/2/09
Refreshments provided

Donnie Hao Dong is a Fellow at Berkman Center and a Lecturer at Yunnan University (PRC). His research interests cover copyright law, cyber law and law and social development in digital age. He got a JSD from China University of Polictics and Law with his dissertation on the public domain in the context of Chinese copyright law. Now Donnie is a PhD Candidate in City University of Hong Kong closing his research on the lessons of Chinese copyright reform for digital age.  His publications, short essays and nags can be accessed athttp://www.BLawgDog.com.

David Singh Grewal is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and an Affiliated Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. His first book, Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization was published by Yale University Press in 2008. He holds a JD from Yale, and is currently completing his PhD in the Harvard Government department, where he is finishing his dissertation, “The Invention of the Economy.” He is also on the board of the Biobricks Foundation, a non-profit working to develop an open-source platform for the emerging field of synthetic biology.

Mackenzie Cowell graduated from Davidson College with a BS in Biology in 2007 and currently works as a Research Assistant at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  He is booting up a public biotech lab in Boston  bosslab.org). He tweets: @100ideas.

Donnie will discuss his research on the justification of copyright protection in China. He will review the Chinese legislative history of copyright protection during the past hundred years, and draw the conclusion that the Chinese copyright law has been, and still is, justified with the utilitarian approach.  He thinks that this characteristic, rather than the difference between the respective legal systems, may be one of the reasons that cause the continous collision between the US copyright law and its Chinese counterpart in future.


David
will examine the question of: Is there a way to bring “free culture” into biotechnology? His talk will explore one recent effort to do so: the creation of the Biobricks Public Agreement, a legal mechanism meant to assist the development of an open, shared platform in the emerging area of synthetic biology.

Mackenzie Cowell co-founded DIYbio.org after witnessing hundreds of undergraduate teams successfully design and build standardized biological parts and devices while competing in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, which Cowell helped organize at MIT from 2006-08.  DIYbio.org is now the center of a diverse and international community of people interested in amateur biotechnology, from artists to scientists to schoolchildren to garage entrepreneurs. In this presentation, Cowell will present some of the projects currently being developed by this community of non-institutional researchers.

Followed by Open Discussion

The “Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group” is a forum for fellows and affiliates of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, Yale Law School Information Society Project, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to discuss their ongoing research. Each session is focused on the peer review and discussion of current projects submitted by a presenter. Meeting alternatively at Harvard, MIT, Yale, the working group aims to expand the shared knowledge of young scholars by bringing together these preeminent centers of thought on issues confronting the information age. Discussion sessions are designed to facilitate advancements in the individual research of presenters and in turn encourage exposure among the participants to the multi-disciplinary features of the issues addressed by their own work.

Two Methodologies Books and more…

Just for a record, as mentioned yesterday in the course of Seminar on Research Methods on Internet and Society, led by John G. Palfrey and Professor Eszter Hargittai.

 

Two books:

 

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Eszter Hargittai (ed.):

Research Confidential: Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have

This collection of essays aims to fill a notable gap in the existing literature on research methods in the social sciences. While the methods literature is extensive, rarely do authors discuss the practical issues and challenges they routinely confront in the course of their research projects. As a result, editor Eszter Hargittai argues, each new cohort is forced to reinvent the wheel, making mistakes that previous generations have already confronted and resolved. Research Confidential seeks to address this failing by supplying new researchers with the kind of detailed practical information that can make or break a given project. Written in an informal, accessible, and engaging manner by a group of prominent young scholars, many of whom are involved in groundbreaking research in online contexts, this collection promises to be a valuable tool for graduate students and educators across the social sciences.

 

Cross-Cultural Survey Methods (Wiley Series in Survey Methodology)Cross-Cultural Survey Methods (Wiley Series in Survey Methodology)

by Janet A. Harkness, Fons J. R. van de Vijver, Peter Ph. Mohler

Breaking new ground in its approach, Cross-Cultural Survey Methods describes how to recognize and deal with the major obstacles at each stage of researching, striving for equivalence and comparability. Topics include:
* Designing and crafting questionnaires for comparative subjects, including questionnaire translation
* Error and bias issues in cross-national surveys
* Techniques for analyzing bias and equivalence
* Statistical techniques for substantive analysis and the use of multidimensional scaling to analyze bias and research questions
* Important issues of preparing data for secondary analysis, such as data access, and documentation
* An introduction to meta-analysis in comparative survey research

 

and more:

Cross-Ideological Discussions among Conservative and Liberal Bloggers

by Eszter Hargittai, Jason Gallo, Matthew Kane.

SurveyFail: an unfortunate case of trying to administer a study in an online community.

What will happen when two utilitarian giants meet

This is the outline of my talk at Berkman Fellow’s Hour on 17 Nov. 2009. Needs improvement, just post for commentaries.

 

1. Copyright protection is justified in a utilitarian way in the US. Contrary to many people’s granted thought, my study find that although it is deeply affected by the Germeneric-japanese form of civil code system, China’s current copyright law is also based on utilitarian philosophy.

 

2. Pros and cons of the utilitarian justification to the copyright law, as well as some of cyberspace law.

Advantage: that’s the sourse of various thinking to the legal reform.
Disadvantage: when the understandings of “progress” (US Constitution Art. 8; China’s Constitution Art. 19, 20, 47, Copyright Law Art. 1) in different countries conflict with each other, conflicts of the law will be inrooted and hard to be coherent.

 

3. When the US is a giant but China is a dawf in the matters of either economy or civilization, US can impose its understanding of “progress” and the corresponding detailed copyright law to China, as it has been for many years. While if China becomes a giant also, what will happen? No matter how do people celebrate it or demonize it based upon different values/ideologies, the unique “socialist regime with Chinese characteristics” is an existence, and has developed a more and more complicated legal system.

 

4. The first formal head-on confrontation happened at the WTO dispute on the provision of denying copyright protection to the “illegal works” (either content-illegal or procedure-unlawful) in China’s copyright act.

 

5. There is a trend of the isolation of the Internet. The isolated and respectively utilitarianized legal system may enlarge the differences of copyright/information law among countris in future. (example (1) firewalled but flourishing Chinese “Intranet”; example (2) differentiated treatment to the books in the latest Google book settlement because of the needs to comply with the territorial copyright law).

 

6. What would be a uniform legal justification for the future reformed copyright law (or law on “creation in commons”)? Or, in what level, that justification is possiblly uniformed in such a utilitarian world?

Key Sentences at 2009 Free Culture Research Workshop

Oct 23 2009, Harvard Law School Hauser Hall 104, Free Culture Research Workshop 09. It is the first Berkman formal event I participated since I arrvied in Boston on 20 Oct. Here are some key sentences at the conference.

terry

 

Terry Fisher: (quotes Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself) “Both in and out of the game, watching and wondering at it.”

[Note: This can be an excellent overall brief to the conference]

 

 

larryLessig: tech today makes possible explosion of non-market production. technology is reviving our earlier sense of how we can produce culture outside of the market paradigm. “professional sex” (production for market) vs “amateur sex” (remix and other free culture production)…  My job as a policy maker is to make sure that both professional and amateur culture can survive…We are not communists…The market isn’t bad, therefore free isn’t inherently good.
 

 

[Note: it always happens in multi-discipline conferences: diverse backgrounds triggered the discussion on the definition of the topics. What is “free culture”?]

 

Lessig: “Strongly resist the idea that Free Culture is Creative Commons. It is not. That would be a failure for CC.”

Lessig: “Free Culture is not just non-market. It is hybrid relationships, it is one strategy to use to continue these relationships.”

 

Gabriella Coleman: “Maybe we can differentiate in the following way: Free Culture vs free culture (explicit vs aggregate dispersed phenomenon).”

I would say “Free Culture” vs “free culture” vs “(free) culture”. – Someone
[Note: forget who said that. while when I searching for this, i found another interesting post by Doc Searls (different context and different contents, but still worth reading)]

 

Mike Linksvayer: Lots of gnashing of teeth re what free culture is and relevance. Stop gnashing and quantify.
 

Aaron Shaw: “we are moving into the Freudian unconscious of the Free Culture movement…the terrain we don’t want to think about it.

 

Giorgos Cheliotis:  “I’d quote: If you want to be wildly interdisciplinary, you must be epistemologically humble.”

 

[Donnie Note: fortunately, ppls shifted to other topics other than the definition…]

 

Lessig: “If Free Culture is innate it doesn’t hurt to educate for it..:) but if it isn’t innate, we should educate to create it.”

Edward Harran: “We need to move from a profit-driven economy to a values-driven economy.”

 

Mike Linksvayer: Need to have case studies of failed free culture platforms.
 

Clay Shirky: “Failure is a feature, not a bug.”

[Donnie note: Free Culture as a movement, or as a practice, it is a problem]

 

Mayo Fuster Morell suggests that free culture may be considered as a social movement because it challenges established production systems.

Thomas Haigh: “Are we researching Free Culture practices or the movement?”

 

Philippe Aigrain: “We must research the practices if we are to research the movement. Only the global landscape gives you a picture.

 

Elizabeth Stark: “Where does the movement end and the research begin?”

 

Kristin Eschenfelder: I think the movement is helpful in consciousness raising that starts people asking questions.

 

Donnie Dong [that’s me]: If free culture has to be a global movement, it must be expanded from sth. about IP to the free dissemination of the information. The reason is: in some late-developed countries like China, the things hindering the “free culture” are far beyond the intellectual property system. On the contrary, the CC’s promotion in China improved people’s consciousness of copyright protection, interestingly. 

 

lessig “We should think about ways to study interesting cultural difference.”

 

“Free Culture can be re-appropriated in each cultural context. Grows very rapidly when there is a challenge. It’s post-modern.”

 

medialabprado Is Twitter part of the Free Culture movement?

 

Mayo Fuster Morell: Facebook is “non-market” in term of users “contributions without monetary retribution”, but not in terms of Facebook company profit.

 

[Donnie’s Note: the following voices are very essential]

 

Herkko Hietanen: “Is this a research or an advocacy workshop? Why are there no dissenting voices around Free Culture and Creative Commons? Are here all Larry’s fans.”

 

“As an academician, I am not interested in the ‘social movement’.”

 

[Donnie’s Note: see the references shared by the attenders via twitter]

 

BiellaColeman http://www.kimberlychristen.com/ —> works on the limits of FC in the context of indigenous groups

Michael Brown: Who Owns Native Culture? Overview of the issues with cultural secrecy:

http://www.williams.edu/go/native/

concept of ‘recursive public’:
http://p2pfoundation.net/Recursive_Public

“The Moral Economy of the English Crowd.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_economy

The trouble of Free Riding
http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/tblee/trouble-free-riding 

Open Educational Resource:
http://www.oercommons.org/

Digital Labor Conference Nov. 12-14 New York

http://digitallabor.org/

Another talk by Lessig:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCyaF-Umod0

 

Some script from: http://twitter.com/metamemette
Photo from (sorry Jude use your copyrighted work): http://www.flickr.com/photos/jyew/