2021 – N1: Place, Storytelling and Communication

Ningbo, China: City Branding and Promotional Videos
Stephen Andriano-Moore and Nancy Liu

This paper examines the official promotional videos and branding of the city of Ningbo (China) as a way to tell the past, current, and future story of the city. The examination considers how the city is presented for local, domestic and international audiences and examines the locales, themes and characteristics of Ningbo. The findings of the research into Ningbo will be place into the context of other port city promotional videos and branding from around the world. The paper will engage the videos and branding in terms of cultural heritage, urban development, and globalization. The paper will identify how the Ningbo is presented as a developing port city and locale for local pride, domestic and international tourism, and business.  

Reshaping Co-existence of Tradition and Modernity: Polymedia in Gender Identity Negotiation of Dagongmei
Xin Pei

Against the rise of polymedia as a global phenomenon, this study bridges the theory of polymedia with one strand of migration research that focuses on gender identity negotiation of marginalized migrant women. Especially, this study aims to capture how traditionally defined gender constraints and nascent desires for modernity may possibly encounter and act upon each other when migrant women navigate the complicated environment of polymedia. This examination is situated in the transitioning post-Mao China, with an emphasis on digital media and technology usage of Dagongmei – the group of young, single female rural-urban migrant workers. Confined physical and social mobility between rural and urban China tends to contribute to their specifically exacerbated gender struggles with the collisions between tradition and modernity, which are reflected in their media practices. Ethnographic fieldwork in a medium-size factory in Northeast China enables this study to unfold the dynamic experiences of these migrant women with the alternate separation, convergence, and clashes between tradition and modernity in polymedia. 

Parodying Rhetorics of Online Dating Apps and Pragmatics of HIV Testing for MSMs in Yunnan
Andrew Wortham

In China, many of the physically constructed spaces for gay men to meet also produce risks of stigmatization from unratified bystanders and other environmental barriers to ‘talk.’ As a result gay dating apps have become the primary spaces for flirtations, making friends and sustaining romantic relationships. Dating apps, such as Blued, have deconstructed the elements the social encounter, allowing users to place limitations of ratified and unratified participants, which has allowed for greater opportunities of gay male encounters. However, over the past decade of using dating apps, many men have become disappointed with the results of what they increasingly see as shallow interactions. While the apps may allow for certain restrictions of unratified participants, they simultaneously have ‘invisible’ audiences that are also acting on the process of somatization. The presence of these ‘invisible audiences’ may have also produced a de-somatization of the social engagement, and consequently fostered feelings of what Austin would call infelicitous promises. For the last two years I have done ethnographic work with HIV organizations in Yunnan who are sponsored by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and have long cooperated with gay dating app developers to promote sexual health and make appointments for regular HIV testing.  What felt in the early days as a major innovation in public health outreach, similarly faces a lack of engagement by app users as they become jaded with online forms of interaction.  In this paper, I use Bakthin’s concept of rhetorics situated within dialogue to illustrate how gay men working for HIV organizations parody online flirting and seduction to express a similar frustration with online dating.  In so doing, they manage to develop relationships based on the humor that develops from mocking these apps and subsequently are able to achieve better results in terms of public health interventions.  

Changing Chinese Rural Habitats: A Filmic exploration
Prof. Garrabost Jayalakshmi and Dr. Adam Brillhart

Forty years ago, His Highness the Aga Khan visited Beijing for a conference on “The Changing Rural Habitat”, held jointly by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Architectural Society of China.  That conference provided a basis for discourse which departed from predominant modernist and post-modernist practices (capitalist profit-orientated exploitation of natural resources) by outlining a framework for evaluation of rural architecture based on a three-part scheme of improving place-specific criteria of rural Techniques, Expertise and Ideology. While the return to balanced rural communities and traditional ways of life may be conservative (Slavoj Zizek), it was then a progressive idea and made a major impact on rural sustainability.  Projects based on those principles continue to thrive even today, although even on sustainability, both China and the world have moved towards a free-market ideology. 

We are making two films – one on Longshang Paper Museum (Yunnan, 2013 shortlist for Aga Khan Award for Architecture) in Yunnan Province and the other based on the architecture of tulous and their influence on modernity in Fujian Province.  The second film will concentrate on The Bridge School (Fujian, 2010 Award Recipient) as well as Tulou Collective Housing (2010 shortlist).  Through these films, we hope to interrogate how the ‘rural’ has re-invented itself to accommodate the concerns of modern life in the 21st century. To us, they seem to offer a new potential for improving living conditions, through retaining and transmitting cultural meanings, thereby  living up to some of the ideals expressed in the framework outlined by the Aga Khan forty years ago.