thinking about the possibility of non-state communities

For the third year, Group+ has ranked its top-30 online communities, which is interesting as it is part of a model of disseminating information about not-for-profit, non-governmental organizing. Over 1,500 groups use Group+, a Shenzhen-based online platform to organize real time “community” events. Fat Bird ranked 3rd, even above the Shenzhen Reading Federation (#5) and Green Mango (#13), which have much broader audiences than does experimental theater. What do these rankings tell us about the possibilities of imagining outside the state in Shenzhen specifically and China more generally? Continue reading

more community websites

Shenzhen long since gave up on “neighborhoods (居委会)” and “villages (村)”. Instead, the ruralized urban hybrids that the SEZ has spawned are legally known as “communities (社区)”. Note du jour is simply to point out that many of the sites connect landlords and renters. Soufun or “Search for a house” web, has sites that not only include rental information, but also track real estate prices. Guloucun — literally Old Lou Village Community (古楼村小区网) and Tianmiancun or Tianmian Village Community (田面村小区网), for example.

However, some community websites are more community oriented, in addition to providing a commercial forum. For the curious, checkout these community websites:

Shangsha and Xiasha Community Website (上下沙社区网)

Baishizhou Community Website (白石洲社区网)

… and it ends with Revelations

Yesterday, I heard a rumor and a comment about that rumor, which have me thinking about the importance and fluidity of “reputation” in the absence of any trusted news media and the concomitant rise of weibo as a news source.

The rumor: because the Municipality overspent its universiade budget, this year small businesses will be taxed excessively in order to make up the difference. Apparently, small businesses have been targeted because they are the most vulnerable to government intervention. Private individuals have already been taxed and cannot be taxed again without causing unrest and large, state and/or foreign owned companies all have governmental connections and (in the case of foreign companies) China’s agreements to uphold its tax laws. In contrast, small business owners only have the government connections that they have made through bribes and schmoozing. Moreover, small business owners tend to swim alone, rather than organizing which means that they have neither collective bargaining power, nor use access to public media to air their grievances. Instead, they complain to friends, who in turn, pass the rumor along over tea and snacks with friends.

The comment: It’s difficult to confirm anything in China because important decisions, or rather, the justifications for important decisions aren’t documented and released into the public sphere because anything that can be written down isn’t the total story. My friend then explained that this is why she no longer reads newspapers for news. Instead, she reads newspapers to get a sense of government winds and reads weibo and blogs for news reports. But, when pressed, she also admitted that she doesn’t completely trust weibo or blogs. Instead, she evaluates (based on her experience) the likelihood of a report being true. And she’s aware that different personal experiences will make some people more or less likely to trust a particular report.  Continue reading