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Digital East Asia - international conference


9 & 10 December 2011
Leiden University Campus The Hague
Stichthage Building
Room Benoordenhout
Friday 9 December 9.30 - 17.45
Saturday 10 December 10.00 - 16.00
Dr. Florian Schneider (Leiden University)
Hosted by
Modern East Asia Research Centre (MEARC)
Further info
- open to public
- no attendance fee
- conference poster
- conference programme in pdf

Conference outline

At the outset of the 21st century, the world is witnessing what communication scholars such as Clay Shirkey have called a “tectonic shift” in social, economic, and political processes. New information and communication technologies (or: ICTs) have made it easier than ever to form communities and act collectively. As sociologist Manuel Castells has argued, we have entered a new age: the “information age”, a period in which communication processes are cheaper, faster, and more effective, and in which societies are increasingly organized as “networks” rather than as hierarchies.

The profound changes of the information age have caused both optimism and fear. On the one hand, the optimists argue that the open nature of new communication methods empowers marginalized social groups, strengthens “civil societies”, and generally makes traditional forms of political organization (such as the “state”) obsolete. On the other hand, sceptics question whether new technologies indeed have such ground-breaking impacts on social and political processes. A decade into the 21st century, the nation-state is still a successful model of social organization, the World Wide Web has become highly commercialized, and ICTs in many cases seem to have strengthened state control over information rather than weakened it. The liberal dream of free information flows seems, for all intents and purposes, to be over.

Conference aim

The aim of this international conference is to examine what these developments mean for the study of modern East Asia. Digital East Asia examines what impact new technologies, new channels of communication, and unprecedented convergence of media formats have in the East Asian context. Examples abound: In South Korea, online computer games have become so popular that individual matches are broadcasted on TV. In both South Korea and Japan, democratic campaigns are accompanied by online activism in the form of “twitter” and blogging, which in turn has prompted political actors to integrate new media content into their campaigns. In the People’s Republic of China, roughly 420 million Chinese citizens regularly use the Internet today. If past growth rates continue, then by 2011 the number of Chinese netizens will exceed the population of the European Union. Yet while the number of users in China has expanded, the PRC government has tightened its control of the national web, and has even used the new technologies to its advantage: the PRC government today offers not only state-of-the-art e-governance services, but also deploys ICTs to better manage the sprawling propaganda system of the Chinese Communist Party.
Such examples raise a range of questions that scholars, journalists, politicians, and businessmen will have to address if they want to succeed in East Asia in the 21st century: How do new media formats change the way ideas and cultural elements “travel” across the region? How do state and non-state actors interact through these new communication networks? How are societies in East Asia goverened in an age of information? Moreover: who truly holds the power over communication processes in the information age? The conference will address these questions, and will focus in particular on issues such as:
- media convergence in the digital age,
- transnational flows of digital culture,
- e-governance and the politics of network societies,
- social and participatory media,
- online activism and digital challenges to state power.
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