THE INTERNET AND THE FRAGMENTATION OF CHINESE SOCIETY
Research on the Internet in China typically focuses on questions of censorship, the blocking of websites, the democratizing effects of the medium, and the use of the Internet by dissident groups. In much of this research, a deterministic view of technology prevails: the inherent features of the Internet such as ubiquitous access and the fact that "everybody can easily become his or her own publisher and participate in many-to-many communications" are assumed to be leading automatically to specific societal and political developments. These developments are seen as taking place along a fixed line only dependent on technological innovations, a characteristic of an earlier view of modernization that was also found in Marxist and Leninist perspectives.1 This simplistic view is inadequate for two reasons. First, it portrays the Chinese Internet user as fundamentally different from his/her Western counterpart. Second, it ignores the rise of urban and consumerist lifestyles, which have changed Chinese society during recent decades and resulted in less interest in conventional politics, more fragmentation, and a stronger focus on identity politics.
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