Staging the "mobile phone carnival": A political economy of the SMS culture in China

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(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
Author: Gao, Wei
This study uses the political economy perspective to contextualize the Short Message Service (SMS) phenomenon in China and examines how intertwining forces of market and state have mutually constituted a new popular culture of SMS. SMS development epitomizes both astonishing growth of Chinese information technology industries and the country's accelerated reintegration into transnationalizing capitalism since joining the WTO in 2001. Simultaneously China's evolving SMS culture crystallizes a complicated politics of popular usages and political economic containment. Because this new culture has developed in the context of intensive commercialization by domestic and transnational capital, rapid industry concentration, and the Chinese state's tight regulatory grip, popular entertainment has emerged as the dominant content of the new medium. Though apolitical consumption of short messages has sporadically challenged state authorities, mobile technology and SMS may also strengthen the dominant power of the Chinese state, domestic and transnational capital, as well as deepen social divisions.
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