Use the viewing guide to take notes during your viewing of the documentary screening of High Tech Low Life, a film not yet released in cinemas, made by the American director, Stephen Maing.
Viewing Guide, Stephen Maing, dir., High Tech Low Life (2012).
Note: your answers to the questions and prompts below will eventually be submitted electronically and assessed as part of this film project.
• The film focuses on two Chinese bloggers. As you watch the film, keep a running list of the stories these two men write about in their blogs:
Blogger 1 (Zola) stories:
Blogger 2 (Tiger Temple) stories:
• The film juxtaposes its portrait of the two bloggers in order to encourage the film viewer to compare and contrast them. As you watch the film, take note of the personal similarities and differences between the two men that you perceive, in terms of personality, motives to blog, approach to blogging, family background, educational background, economic background, financial circumstances, age, education, etc.
• Are the blogs by these two men censored by the authorities? If so, how, and why?
• Are the bloggers harassed, intimidated, questioned, or arrested by the Chinese authorities? If so, how and why?
• What methods do the two bloggers use to maximize appeal of their blogs to their audience?
• Recall the statistics presented in the reading, Xiao 2011, about the average Chinese internet user. As you watch the film, try to decide if you think the average Chinese person with internet access would be interested in these two bloggers? Why, or why not?
Step 3 (after the film screening):
After watching the film and taking notes, spend a few hours going through your notes and adding any additional thoughts you may have. Add a few comments about how your notes relate to the readings for Week 6 (Hassid, 2012, and Xiao, 2011). Edit your notes so that they are written in suitable academic English (see the University’s “Write Site” for more information). No incomplete sentences, please. Make sure that any reference you make to the readings or to any other sources are properly acknowledged, and citations are written in correct format, according to the “Write Site.” Endnotes and Footnotes are both acceptable. If you make in text citations, please include both year and page numbers. Plagiarism will be treated seriously, according to University policy.
Step 4 (Week 8 tutorials and readings):
The film High Tech Low Life is a well-executed portrayal of two Chinese bloggers, but as with any documentary, some viewers may come away with some incorrect assumptions, such as
• These bloggers are representative figures within the whole Chinese blogging sphere
• mainstream state controlled media does not play a significant role in breaking stories that the Chinese authorities are uncomfortable with, and
• High Tech Low Life is a typical Chinese documentary.
Yu, Haiqing. “Blogging Everyday Life in Chinese Internet Culture.” Asian Studies Review, Vol. 31, Iss. 4, 2007, pp. 423-433. (Fisher Online)
Mueller, Milton L. “China and global internet governance: a tiger by the tail,” in Ronald Deibert … [et al.], ed., Access contested : security, identity, and resistance in Asian cyberspace. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, (2012), Chapter 9, pp. 177-194. (Fisher Online)
Note: this reading (Mueller 2012) is excellent, but is also written with a lot of technical vocabulary. If you struggle with the jargon, try to just get the general picture about China’s internet censorship strategy.
Nornes, Abé Mark. “Bulldozers, Bibles, and Very Sharp Knives: The Chinese Independent Documentary Scene.” Film Quarterly 63. 1 (Fall 2009): 50-55,3. (Fisher Online)
Step 5 (Watch a Chinese-produced documentary on your own):
Choose any Chinese documentary to watch. You have been shown parts of Jia Zhangke’s documentary, 24 City, during lecture, so this film would be a good choice for you, but you are welcome to choose a different documentary, provided that it was directed by a Chinese director based in the PRC/Taiwan/HK. Make sure you choose a documentary, not a mock-documentary (i.e., do not choose a film that is based on a fictional script but is meant to look like a documentary). You are welcome/encouraged to get together with classmates and watch the same documentary. DVD copies of 24 City, and several other Chinese documentaries, are available with English subtitles in Fisher Library. These films are also usually available on youtube, but without English subtitles.
Step 6 (Compare High Tech Low Life with a documentary directed by a Chinese film maker):
Keeping in mind High Tech Low Life was not directed by a Chinese director, compare and contrast the style and content of this documentary with the style/content of a documentary produced by a Chinese film maker. In your essay, make frequent reference to the week 8 reading-Nornes, Abé Mark. “Bulldozers, Bibles, and Very Sharp Knives: The Chinese Independent Documentary Scene.” Film Quarterly 63. 1 (Fall 2009): 50-55,3.
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