Big Data, Big Brother, Big Profit?

Policy & Internet, 10(4), 372-392, 2018, DOI: 10.1002/poi3.187

21 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

See all articles by Min Jiang

Min Jiang

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte; University of Pennsylvania - Center for Global Communication Studies

King-wa Fu

The University of Hong Kong

Date Written: November 15, 2018

Abstract

Chinese social media and big data represent an important share of the global Internet, but have received relatively less attention. This editorial examines three dominant discourses based on China’s distinctive and complex political, economic and social realities: “Big Data” (technical focus), “Big Brother” (political focus), and “Big Profit” (economic focus). We argue that the prevailing discourse and practice of big data in China is largely technocentric, decontextualized and nonreflexive, and much less attuned to the social, political, cultural, epistemological, and ethical implications of big data that a human-centric approach would demand. Second, the authoritarian Chinese state poses incredible political challenges to big data research and practice. Third, the practice of Chinese social media and big data is imbued with a discourse of technological nationalism, driven by a handful of monopolistic “national champions.” Despite contention, the state and market players have formed a largely mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship to maximize their political and economic gains. We argue a comparative perspective to foster a global conversation on social media and big data is necessary in order to formulate collective responses to such challenges.

Keywords: China, big data, social media, Chinese Internet, ethics, government, business, politics, social credit system, surveillance

Suggested Citation

Jiang, Min and Fu, King-wa, Big Data, Big Brother, Big Profit? (November 15, 2018). Policy & Internet, 10(4), 372-392, 2018, DOI: 10.1002/poi3.187. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3239434 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3239434

Min Jiang (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte ( email )

9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223
United States

University of Pennsylvania - Center for Global Communication Studies ( email )

3620 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA Pennsylvania 19104
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.linkedin.com/in/minjiang

King-wa Fu

The University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK
China

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