China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
As smartphone applications (apps) proliferate nationwide, mainland Chinese experiences of sexuality, cultural production, and globalization have profoundly changed. In contrast to the open technology of the Internet that services the general public, apps are characterized as a private technology that provides proprietary services to specific niche groups (Gerlitz et al, 2016; Ahlm, 2016). Consequently, as mobile apps plough into everyday experiences, issues of control, daily scrutiny, labor exploitation, and knowledge production now affect private lives, which require immediate theoretical intervention and reflection. With its multidisciplinary dialogue, this panel brings together scholars from anthropology, human geography, and media and cultural studies to engage with the questions outlined above.
By recognizing the decline of public commercial sex venues and the increasing privatization of paid sex that gay hook-up apps facilitate, Yifeng Cai discusses how sexualities, money, and governance are entangled and blurred. Shuaishuai Wang demonstrates the ways through which ZANK (a gay dating app) integrates the sexual shame – the foundation of governmental censorship on the public representation of homosexuality – into its self-censorship on live streaming, although the app is enclosed from the general public. Chris K. K. Tan explores how Kuaishou, a short video-sharing app, rewards micro-celebrities with monetary compensation and emotional satisfaction, while simultaneously exploiting their labor under the façade of innocuous play. Yifan Cai highlights how Chinese expatriates in Africa construct racial discourses about African workers in the videos they upload to Kuaishou. The four papers aim to spark innovative perspectives and approaches to advancing critical app studies.