Living with Digital Surveillance in China


How do Chinese citizens make sense of digital surveillance and live with it? What narratives do they come up with to deal with the daily and all-encompassing reality of life in China? What mental tactics do they apply to dissociate themselves from surveillance? Ariane Ollier-Malaterre explores these questions in her book Living with Digital Surveillance in China (Routledge, 2023).

Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, Professor of Management and Canada Research Chair on Digital Regulation at Work and in Life at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada talks with Joanne Kaui about her research that investigates Chinese citizens’ imaginaries about surveillance and privacy from within the Chinese socio-political system.

Based on in-depth qualitative research interviews, detailed diary notes, and extensive documentation, Ariane Ollier-Malaterre attempts to ‘de-Westernise’ the internet and surveillance literature. In the book, she shows how the research participants weave a cohesive system of anguishing narratives on China’s moral shortcomings and redeeming narratives on the government and technology as civilizing forces.

Although many participants cast digital surveillance as indispensable in China, their misgivings, objections, and the mental tactics they employ to dissociate themselves from surveillance convey the mental and emotional weight associated with such surveillance exposure.

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Joanne Kuai

Joanne Kuai is a PhD Candidate at Karlstad University, Sweden, with a research project on Artificial Intelligence in Chinese Newsrooms. Her research interests centre around data and AI for media, computational journalism, and the social implications of automation and algorithms. Find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter @JoanneKuai.

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