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Affecting relations: domesticating the internet in a south-western Chinese town

McDonald, T; (2015) Affecting relations: domesticating the internet in a south-western Chinese town. Information, Communication & Society , 18 (1) 17 - 31. 10.1080/1369118X.2014.924981. Green open access

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Abstract

Drawing on data gathered during ethnographic fieldwork in a south-western Chinese town, this paper examines a detailed case study of a single family, and how their internet use transformed over an 18-month period following the introduction of home broadband to their house. Despite initial intentions that the connection would resolve the problem of errant offspring accessing the internet outside the home, the subsequent effects that home internet brought upon domestic life were largely unforeseen. The detailed narrative presented herein highlights how different family members' perceptions and actual use of the internet generated multiple contradictions over the fieldwork period. This paper argues that Silverstone, R., Hirsch, E., & Morley, D.?s (1992). Information and communication technologies and the moral economy of the household. In R. Silverstone & E. Hirsch (Eds.), Consuming technologies: Media and information in domestic spaces (pp. 15?31). London: Routledge] theory of domestication provides the most suitable model for understanding the introduction of information and communication technologies into the home, owing to its capacity to take into account how attitudes towards the internet are renegotiated over time. The paper proposes further refinements be made to the theory by challenging the assumption that users aspire to ?incorporate? the technology into the household. Instead, the ethnographic data indicate that the main drivers of the domestication process are family members' desires to use the internet as a way to transform relationships within the household. More broadly, by foregrounding participants' concerns regarding internet use as focusing chiefly on family life and education, this paper also provides an important alternative to prevailing scholarly trends that generally understand the Chinese internet through themes of politics, censorship and democracy.

Type: Article
Title: Affecting relations: domesticating the internet in a south-western Chinese town
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2014.924981
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2014.924981
Additional information: © 2014 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted. Permission is granted subject to the terms of the License under which the work was published. Please check the License conditions for the work which you wish to reuse. Full and appropriate attribution must be given. This permission does not cover any third party copyrighted material which may appear in the work requested.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP: International
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1432039
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