[Air-l] FW: [chineseinternetresearch] use of the internet in the chinese rave scene

Randolph Kluver (Assoc Prof) TRKluver at ntu.edu.sg
Thu Aug 21 17:46:43 PDT 2003

Ulla, this might be relevant to your query about non-US perspectives

Randolph Kluver
School of Communication and Information
Nanyang Technological University
31 Nanyang Link
Singapore, 637718
(65) 6790-5770
Fax (65) 6792-4329

	-----Original Message-----
	From: lokkie at lokman.nu [mailto:lokkie at lokman.nu] 
	Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2003 7:21 PM
	To: chineseinternetresearch at yahoogroups.com
	Subject: [chineseinternetresearch] use of the internet in the
chinese rave scene
	John von Seggern and STAFFER3. "Network Effects: Use of the
Internet in
	the Chinese Rave Scene." 26 Feb 2002.
	I have spent the past two years as a graduate student at the
University of
	Hong Kong, where my work has focused on the emerging Internet
music scene.
	The international music world has been going through a period of
	extraordinary change and restructuring during this time because
of the
	accelerating use of the Internet at every stage in the processes
	musical production, distribution and reception. In this paper, I
	focus on the developing electronic dance music scene in China, a
	particular area of interest for me, and examine some of the ways
it has
	been affected by the advent of the Net; I also want to look at
what some
	of the larger social implications of these phenomena might be.
	significance of Net access for musicians in a country where the
flow of
	information is heavily restricted and censored can hardly be
	underestimated, as I hope to show.
	My material here is based in part on my own experiences as a DJ
	musician working in China during the period 1995-2001. I have
	this paper in consultation with STAFFER3, a pseudonymous
American techno
	producer who lives and works in Beijing, and his involvement has
	crucial to the development of the ideas I am presenting here.
	Since the first raves were held in Beijing in 1995, a sizable
	dance music scene has grown up in the People.s Republic of
China. Going
	clubbing has become a popular activity among a significant
segment of the
	country.s growing urban middle class, and an indigenous ecology
of Chinese
	DJs, MCs, producers and promoters has emerged. This is a
	limited not only to the country.s largest cities; dance clubs
	various techno-derived musics can be found in many smaller
cities as well,
	at least in China.s wealthier regions.
	I relocated to Hong Kong in 1995 to work in the city.s popular
	industry and I have witnessed the rapid growth of this new
Chinese club
	culture firsthand on my frequent trips into mainland China. I
first became
	interested in dance music culture in 1997 as I became aware of
the rapidly
	growing club scene in Hong Kong at that time, and events on the
other side
	of the Chinese border seemed to be following a similar course.
	modern clubs attracting hundreds or even thousands of clubbers
	weekend appeared to be springing up everywhere I went in China,
	filling a void for a growing middle class with increasing
amounts of
	disposable income but relatively few entertainment options to
spend it on.
	During this same period in the late 1990s, Internet usage has
also become
	widespread among members of this same middle class, and
according to the
	China Internet Network Information Center, the Internet
continues to
	experience phenomenal growth in China. A CNNIC survey released
in January
	2002 reports that there are now over 33 million Internet users
in China, a
	nearly 50% year-on-year increase. Internet use has been
increasing most
	rapidly among the group most attracted to the dance club scene,
	urban dwellers in their 20s and 30s.
	I became interested in possible connections between this
increase in
	Internet and the rapid growth of the Chinese club scene as I
observed a
	number of interesting Net-related phenomena within the dance
music scene.
	Hearing Chinese DJs spin a variety of imported and domestic
	techno, and house music at clubs in Beijing, Shanghai and
elsewhere, I
	wondered where they were learning about and obtaining all the
music they
	were using. On a February 2001 visit to Club Focus, one of the
	clubs in Guangzhou, I learned that some of the DJs there were
playing MP3s
	downloaded from the Web and burned on recorded CDs in their live
	This seemed to explain the uncanny musical erudition of DJ
Andrew and
	others whom I met in Guangzhou as well -- how were they able to
keep up so
	well with developments in the international music scene, I
wondered? One
	of the DJs from Focus later told me that some of them used the
Internet to
	search for information about dance music around the world.
	Discussing this topic with more DJs and clubbers in China, I
began to see
	a number of distinct effects of the rapid increase in Net usage
on the
	nascent Chinese club scene: local DJs and producers were using
	Internet to obtain new tools for producing and distributing
their own
	music; websites were springing up to inform users about new
	in the Chinese scene and provide new opportunities for
participants to
	communicate with one another; and music makers and clubbers
alike were
	using the Net to learn about and obtain new music from both
domestic and
	international artists. I will now look at each of these "network
	in more detail.
	Chinese DJs and dance music producers are now using many of the
	software tools used by other electronic music producers around
the world,
	and they are obtaining them from the same source: the Internet.
	Chinese producers depend completely on the Net for information
about new
	developments in music software, either downloading new programs
	onto their computers or copying them from friends who have
already done
	so. The online availability of such powerful software tools, as
well as a
	wealth of information about how to use them, now makes it
possible for
	musicians in China to keep up with new developments in
electronic music
	production and obtain at least some of the latest technologies
at the same
	time as their colleagues overseas. This is a very significant
change when
	we consider that it has always been very difficult for
	musicians in China to get access to the technologies of
	music; import restrictions and other barriers have meant that
	music equipment typically costs twice as much in China as it
does in the
	United States, when it is available at all. Computer hardware is
	relatively inexpensive now, however, even for some mainland
Chinese, and
	there are powerful software tools on the Internet that can be
had cheaply
	or for free. Increasing numbers of young Chinese are using
computers to
	create their own dance music and upload it to the Internet,
where it can
	be shared with a community of other producers and club music
	As an example of how participants in the Chinese dance scene are
	connecting and forming communities on the Internet, I would like
to look
	at Yesdj.com; this is one of the more extensive websites used by
	DJs and producers to exchange information on how to produce
their favorite
	styles of music and where to find music software. This
	site also provides users with frequently updated lists of the
most popular
	dance tracks and CDs in China, with links to downloadable MP3
	when I last checked, the most popular CD on the site was by
	south China techno-rap group MP4, and tracks from the CD had
	downloaded over 65,000 times according to the site statistics.
	also provides forums for clubbers to discuss the latest
developments in
	Chinese dance music and for DJs, MCs, producers, promoters and
	actively involved in the scene to make contact with their
	across China.
	Although it is impossible to gauge the precise extent to which
	Internet-based communications have contributed to the rapid
growth of the
	Chinese dance music scene, I believe that websites such as
Yesdj.com and
	mailing lists of event schedules such as those operated by
Beijing clubs
	Vogue and Orange have played a very significant role. It is
important to
	note that besides the Internet, there are virtually no other
forms of mass
	communication available to the Chinese dance community. Access
to print
	media is strictly controlled in China, and information on
	sponsored cultural activities is extremely difficult to come by.
It is
	impossible, for example, for Chinese dance promoters to simply
take out
	advertisements for their events in local magazines. In the
recent past,
	information about dance events could be communicated only by
word of mouth
	or by the distribution of party fliers, but Chinese clubs are
	increasingly making use of the Internet for this purpose.
	In addition to bringing new tools for producing music to
	musicians in China and tremendously facilitating the circulation
	information within their scene, the Internet is also having a
	impact in terms of the vastly increased access to music from
outside China
	which it has brought to its users. The Chinese government
	controls all cultural imports, including music, and most
imported dance
	music recordings are completely unavailable through legal
channels. As
	Internet usage has increased in China over the past few years,
the Net has
	started to become the main source of information about music for
more and
	more young urban Chinese. DJs and producers, many of whom have
their own
	computers with Net access, rely increasingly on the Web to learn
about the
	latest trends in dance music styles around the globe. Virtually
all of the
	major DJs in Beijing, for example, use the Internet extensively
to keep up
	with international music trends, learning about new styles at
the same
	time as their counterparts in other countries.
	As I noted earlier, some Chinese DJs even use music downloaded
from the
	Net in their live sets, making their own compilations of MP3
files of
	music from China and abroad and recording them on CDRs; I have
	DJs at some of the largest clubs in Shanghai and Guangzhou using
	CDRs in the DJ booth. Among some in the Chinese underground
hiphop scene,
	only tracks which have been downloaded are considered truly
	and thus valuable, while any music which is available for
purchase in
	physical form is seen as being tainted by commerciality to some
	In considering the long-term effects of these developments in
the context
	of modern Chinese society, we might recall the oft-quoted ideas
of Jacques
	Attali about music as a predictor of social change:
	Music is prophecy. Its styles and economic organization are
ahead of the
	rest of society because it explores, much faster than material
	can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code. It makes
	the new world that will gradually become visible, that will
impose itself
	and regulate the order of things; it is not only the image of
things, but
	the transcending of the everyday, the herald of the future
(Attali, p.
	It is easy to be critical of Attali for his vagueness and
	generalizations. Yet the ideas he first presented in his book
Noise in
	1977 seem to be resonating more strongly than ever at present,
with many
	writers on digital music culture both in academia and in the
popular media
	citing Attali.s ideas to help explain the phenomena they observe
on the
	Internet. If we are willing to grant some degree of truth to
what Attali
	is saying, that music may indeed be a "herald of the future" in
	sense, we can only be led to consider some startling
possibilities about
	the future of modern China. The rapidly evolving Internet-based
	scene on the mainland may have radical implications for a
society based on
	the principle of monolithic state control of information.
	The Chinese government has been very active in efforts to combat
	spread of dissident activity and "harmful opinions" on the
Internet, even
	going so far as to construct a security firewall around the
entire country
	which ensures that CNN.com (for example) cannot be freely
accessed by
	Chinese Web surfers. Nonetheless, the government.s control over
the flow
	of information into and out of China has already been seriously
	by the Web. A report prepared in January 2000 by the United
States Embassy
	in Beijing explains this situation in more detail and raises
questions for
	the future:
	The Chinese government filters the flow of information into
	Dissident groups mail thousands of electronic periodicals into
China. They
	constantly switch originating addresses to evade filtering. Some
	websites are blocked but Chinese surfers often use proxy servers
to evade
	the Great Red Firewall. Email from China cannot reach certain
	addresses but using a foreign email account (such as Hotmail)
can solve
	that problem. The old Chinese saying "For every measure taken on
	there is a counter measure down below" is illustrated by the
wide use of
	anti-filtering countermeasures (US Embassy report, 2000).
	Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas of the Carnegie Endowment
	International Peace have studied the political impact of the
Internet in
	China in greater detail, noting that while many observers
continue to
	believe that rising use of the Internet poses an insurmountable
threat to
	authoritarian regimes, the reality in China is that the
government has
	managed to control the impact of the Net to some degree and in
the short
	term via both reactive and proactive strategies (Kalathil and
Boas, 2000).
	However, other commentators look to the future and question how
long any
	kind of effective control can be maintained. Kalathil and Boas
	outline some of the specific mechanisms by which authoritarian
regimes can
	be gradually undermined by the Internet:
	ONE Exposure to outside ideas and lifestyles may spur a
revolution of
	"rising expectations" as citizens begin to wonder why they are
	rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people of other nations. (It
	believed that this was an important factor in the revolutions in
	Europe which overthrew the Communist regimes there, although
	rather the Internet was the crucial media technology there.)
	TWO The widespread use of email, Internet chat rooms and the Web
	ordinary citizens may contribute to a greater degree of
	pluralism" as more and more information which contradicts the
	party line becomes available to users.
	THREE Civil organizations may use the Internet for the
dissemination of
	information among members and for large-scale organization. (The
	striking example of this in China thus far has been the Falun
Gong, a
	banned religious organization.) Kalathil and Boas note that
these civil
	organizations have often played a crucial role in undermining
	authoritarian regimes elsewhere.
	FOUR The Internet creates new opportunities for entrepreneurship
	wealth creation.
	FIVE Finally, Net usage provides increased scope for foreign
	within countries hitherto isolated from the world community by
	and control over the free flow of information.
	Looking again at the Chinese dance music scene, we can clearly
observe the
	operation of many of the mechanisms identified here. The
Internet has
	contributed significantly to the spread of new musical ideas in
	encouraging a greater degree of musical pluralism; websites and
	lists are routinely used by participants in the scene to
communicate with
	each other and to organize and promote dance events; the rapidly
	dance music scene is creating new economic opportunities for
some young
	Chinese in the underground economy; and there is an increasing
degree of
	foreign musical influence due to the access to music and
information from
	overseas provided by the Internet. If Attali is right and
developments in
	music do foreshadow changes in other social practices, then the
	success of China.s efforts to control public discourse on the
	must be placed in doubt, with potentially profound consequences
for the
	future of the country.s political system.
	Although the dance scene is not overtly political for the most
part, it
	should be noted here that there are already signs of a
	"ideational pluralism" among its participants which may have
	political overtones. An article in Asiaweek magazine in May 2001
	early signs of politicization within the Chinese dance scene,
such as the
	popularity of a locally-produced dance track called "No
Communist Party."
	Taking its melody from a song associated with the Cultural
Revolution, the
	lyrics ridicule Communist Party icon Lei Feng, the selfless PLA
	who has been held up as a model of good character to generations
	Chinese students.
	Some observers of the Internet music scene even follow Attali.s
	one step farther and argue that the drive to distribute music on
	Internet has itself become a cause of future change in other
areas and not
	just a predictor of it. They point especially to software tools
	for the purpose of distributing music that may ultimately have a
	greater impact when applied in other areas. Freenet, a
decentralized and
	anonymous music file trading system, provides us with an
	example here. Freenet makes it possible for users to trade any
kinds of
	digital data files among themselves completely anonymously,
without fear
	of being identified by government authorities or copyright
holders. Ian
	Clarke, the founder of Freenet, has reportedly been contacted by
	who is already using his software in a totalitarian, Middle
	country to share information banned by the government (van
Buskirk, 2000).
	Technologies developed to share music such as Freenet, which
enable users
	to communicate on a mass scale with no possibility of
	censorship, may ultimately play a key role in evading the
mechanisms of
	online control identified by Kalathil and Boas.
	As I have tried to show here, increasing Internet usage among
	in the Chinese dance scene seems to be contributing
significantly to the
	rapid growth of that scene. Participants are exposed to a wide
variety of
	new ideas and lifestyles through the widespread use of email,
chat rooms
	and the Web, members of the community are using the Net to
organize and
	promote their activities, and new opportunities for
entrepreneurship and
	wealth creation are emerging within the scene: these
characteristics of
	the new dance subculture illustrate specific ways in which I
believe the
	Internet is acting to significantly reduce the Communist
	control over the Chinese population as the government loses
control of the
	flow of information. Bearing in mind again Attali.s idea of
music as
	prophecy, I wonder about what kind of messages we might read
from the
	chaotic freedom of the main dancefloor at Club Rojam in
Shanghai, where on
	any given weekend more than a thousand clubbers might typically
be found
	dancing to a mix of electronic beats from all over the world...
	Attali, Jacques. Bruits; essai sur l'economie politique de la
	Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1977. Published in
English as
	Noise: the political economy of music, tr. Brian Massumi.
	University of Minnesota Press, 1985.
	China Internet Network Information Center. January 2002. 17 Feb
	DJ Tadi. Homepage. 18 Feb 2002
	Freenet. 6 Dec 2001 <http://freenet.sourceforge.net>.
	Kalathil, Shanthi and Taylor C. Boas. "The Internet and State
Control in
	Authoritarian Regimes: China, Cuba, and the Counterrevolution."
	Endowment for International Peace, Information Revolution and
	Politics Project, Working Paper #21, July 2000. 18 Feb 2002
	Oster, Shai. "It.s My Party." Asiaweek 18 May 2001. 20 Feb 2002
	US Embassy Beijing. "China.s Internet Information Skirmish." Jan
2000. 5
	Dec 2001
	van Buskirk, Eliot. "How Music Is Changing the Internet." 26 Nov
2000. 5
	Dec 2001
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