The Chinese government closely monitors Internet traffic and censors citizens’ ability to access share/access information. As we discussed in class, the country’s strict censorship has been dubbed the ‘Great Firewall of China’. Recently I watched a documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry by Alison Krayman. The film depicts Ai, an international artist and political activist, as he speaks out against the Chinese government, largely through social media as a medium for his art. He states, “Internet is the answer to achieve a civil society,” and explains that Twitter and blogs provides Chinese citizens with a sense of freedom they have never had before.
He has used these platforms to mobilize citizens and raise international awareness of unethical practices of the Chinese government. In 2008, the Sichuan Earthquake had devastating effects on the state of China. The communist government did not reveal details of citizen casualties, especially among school children. Investigations proved that poor construction of Chinese schools led to the unnecessary death of thousands of young students. Through the Internet, Ai Weiwei organized volunteers to visit schools and even knock door-to-door to learn of the specific children that were harmed by the disaster. In total, Ai developed a database of over 5,219 students killed and created a memorial piece of art in their honor.
Through the power of social media, Ai strives to transform China into a “modern society” and promote freedom of speech for the Chinese people. He encourages young people to get involved in social media as this powerful medium allows individuals to instantly reach the masses and has the potential to make a significant impact on society.
Here is a TED Talk about Ai Weiwei and his efforts in China to leverage social media for social change.