Although the world’s largest internet market by several measures, China’s online universe remains under-studied. The Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC) is a key annual event for scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds to share insights into how internet technology is transforming the economic, political, cultural, social, and health sectors of Greater China and beyond.
This year, Hong Kong Baptist University plays host to the 19th CIRC, “China and the Future of the Internet”. The virtual event, from 23–24 May, is also slated as an official pre-conference event of the International Communication Association Conference. More than 40 scholars from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Singapore, Europe and the United States will be presenting their research in nine panels. They will interrogate a wide range of issues such as fact-checking in the digital age, global perspectives on the Chinese Internet, cross-platform analysis of the Chinese Internet, media technologies, digital economy, social order, and the impacts of digital technologies on culture, health and environment in Greater China. Jonathan Jian-Hua Zhu of the City University of Hong Kong will deliver the keynote speech, titled “Adding Evidence-based Evaluation (EbE) to Research on Chinese Internet Research”.
The conference is organised by the HKBU School of Communication and Film’s Centre for Media and Communication Research (CMCR).
“The event has received a very positive response in terms of papers and panel proposals and we expect a lively and engaging conference, representing multiple perspectives and approaches,” says CMCR Co-Director Daya Thussu. He adds that it is a very timely conference, “given the growing ‘balkanization’ and ‘nationalization’ of the US-dominated internet and the challenges posed to it by the Chinese internet”.
Celine Song of the Department of Journalism notes, “China formally joined the Internet in 1994 and in these 28 years, the Internet in the country has flourished at a startling speed. This conference will be a golden opportunity to look back on the trajectory of its development and to seek an understanding of its impact on China.”
One key theme to be discussed is Chinese-language fact-checking. HKBU’s Fact Check Service has invited three fact-checking teams based in Asia to share their experiences and insights. “While academic interest in fact-checking research is increasing in number, there are few opportunities for scholars to engage with fact-checking practitioners,” notes HKBU Fact Check Co-Director Stephanie Jean Tsang.
“These teams will share how they carry out fact-checking on a daily basis in the digital age with a focus on how fact-checkers use artificial intelligence to combat misinformation in practice,” she adds.
The papers accepted for this conference will be considered for publication in select journals. Top student papers will receive awards at the end of the conference.
Xinzhi Zhang of the Department of Journalism says, “I’m looking forward to intellectual debates and reflections on the public implications of how technologies promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how the internet helps to nurture informed citizenship, especially for the underrepresented and vulnerable groups.”
CMCR Co-Director Leanne Chang says, “Our school is happy to bring the CIRC back to Hong Kong and use this opportunity to support continuous dialogue on the development of the Chinese internet and its impacts in various aspects.”