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Conference Report: The First Annual Conference of UK-China Media and Culture Studies Association

The First Annual Conference of UK-China Media and Culture Studies Association is an audacious effort initiated by graduate students from media and communication studies across UK (Tianyang Zhou from University of Sussex, Shulin Gong and Lijie Yang from Cardiff University) to build a network of students and researchers who share similar interest in the study of Chinese media. As this association’s inaugural meeting, it attracts a wide range of research project, brilliant researchers and graduate students from all over the world. The topic ranges from journalism studies, popular culture studies, media representation, to nation branding and media policy and regulations.

The collection of papers presented at this conference reflects some of the new and emerging trends concerning media studies in China. For example, comparative studies regarding how cross-cultural news organizations provide contentious viewpoints in covering Sino-African relationship (Able Ugba), environmental issues (Song Lin), and different patterns of online journalism (Guy Starkey and Hao Ye). Issue of representation of minority groups in popular culture, especially homosexuality (Tianyang Zhou) and the construction of youth and sexuality in commercial advertising (Shulin Gong) are also examined critically in their potential consequences in shaping public (mis)perceptions. Especially, Tianyang Zhou’s study provides a valuable insight into how homosexuality is been mis-represented in popular cinema and therefore further exacerbated and reinforced the heterosexual norms through textual analysis.

Online public is also a key theme in this conference. For example, papers discussed at the conference address the difficulties in conceptualizing online nationalism along the conflicting “nation-loving” and “country-loving” publics (Jing Cheng) and the simplification and problematic ways of gauging online public opinions and its intricate relationship with public policy making process (Lianrui Jia). Moreover, progression and development of media control and regulation in China and its impact on foreign news organizations and foreign correspondence in China has also been addressed in one of the keynote speeches by Professor Richard Sambrook from Cardiff University. Dr. Paul Bowman’s keynote provides an interesting investigation into how “Qigong” has been constructed, packaged, and sold to audience as an ancient Chinese art in contemporary (Western) world. The popularity of QiGong demonstrates how clashes and collapses between temporalities and geography in the global flow of communication and information.

In sum, the First Annual Conference of UK-China Media and Culture Studies Association provides a glimpse into the emerging research on Chinese media and offers great platform for scholars to build research network and collaboration. The range of comparative work is also top-notch. It leaves us much to look for for next year’s conference at the University of Sussex, in Brighton, UK.

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