In 2015, two friends and I went on a trip through China and Mongolia. It was a blast. Unfortunately, my Instagram-ing, Face-booking, Gmail-using friend (pictured above on the left) had no knowledge that a multitude of websites and platforms are blocked in China for political purposes by the Great Firewall of China. Somehow her accounts also got hacked during the trip. She was at a bit of a loss, to say the least.
This governmental censorship has prompted media companies to create a kind of intranet, connecting individuals throughout the country via new platforms despite their lack of access to other parts of the web. This process has led to certain innovations, but also has some considerable privacy and monitoring issues. The video below explains it, using corgis.
While all-encompassing, ubiquitous connectivity is convenient for users, platforms like WeChat remain closed and controlled by governments and organisations. As Johnathan Zittrain says, “opportunities for accidents and mischief abound”.
When we talk about open and closed sources that either encourage or limit further creation, we’re generally discussing the role of organisations in controlling media trajectories. Don’t forget to scrutinise the government!