A Twitter Bodhisattva : Ai Weiwei's Media Politics

Item Type Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract This project investigates voices of dissent in twenty-first century China from a cultural perspective to find out how artists and writers mount resistance towards the ruling regime via social media. It uses the media politics of artist and activist Ai Weiwei as a case study. It argues that the success of Ai's global communication strategy lies in the combination of international celebrity status, criticism against power, transgressive language, and round-the-clock interaction with his netizen audience and the news media. Back in 1996, Ai Weiwei imagined a modernist movement that would enact a ‘non-compromising, non-cooperative vigilance on society and power,' and since 2005 he has embraced the new digital media, in particular Web 2.0, blogging and microblogging, as tools to enact this ideals and to disseminate them in defiance of state surveillance and censorship. The ‘one-man reality show' staged by his blogging responds to the new celebrity culture and the ‘reality' trend in creative industries. At the same time, Chinese netizens refer to him as ‘God Ai' and ‘bodhisattva,' looking at him for spiritual support and enlightenment. In a similar combination of tradition and late modernity, Ai Weiwei's style has broken away from the traditional forms of Chinese intellectual discourse, while maintaining the literati's commitment to ‘smooth change' and ‘spokemanship for the people.' We also identify the formative experiences that have shaped Ai Weiwei's activism, including the Cultural Revolution, the art-cum-protest activities of the Stars Group, and his life in the US, where he documented civil disobedience and police intervention against it. As a result, this research enhances our understanding of cultural production and consumption in the Chinese cyberspace as a socio-political barometer.
Authors Berg, Daria & Strafella, Giorgio
Language English
Keywords Ai Weiwei; activism; China; Web 2.0; Internet; blogging; censorship; art
Subjects cultural studies
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
Refereed Yes
Date 27 April 2012
Publisher Asia Research Institute/National University of Singapure
Place of Publication Singapore
Page Range 19
Title of Book Conference on Modes of Activism and Engagement in the Chinese Public Sphere
Event Title Modes of Activism and Engagement in the Chinese Public Sphere 2012
Event Location NUS, Singapore
Event Dates 26.-27.04.2012
Depositing User Dr. Giorgio Strafella
Date Deposited 23 Jul 2012 15:53
Last Modified 29 Nov 2022 01:22
URI: https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/publications/215415

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Berg, Daria & Strafella, Giorgio: A Twitter Bodhisattva : Ai Weiwei's Media Politics. 2012. - Modes of Activism and Engagement in the Chinese Public Sphere 2012. - NUS, Singapore.

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https://www.alexandria.unisg.ch/id/eprint/215415
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