Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn on Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 8:12 PM
Fauna, feeling jiong
ChinaSMACK launched barely four months ago, but it immediately proved to be one of the more interesting niche websites about China in English. The site translates posts and comments from China's lively Internet forum scene.
Internet fora, or BBS, were one of the first types of website in China to get young Chinese hooked, and they remain very popular. Chinese BBS are a refreshing contrast to the stodgy state media, and the cowed privately-managed media.
You do however need a strong stomach to enjoy Chinese BBS because for every thoughtful or thought-provoking posting, there are two or three vicious ad hominem essays, human flesh search engine man hunts, or nationalistic rants.
ChinaSMACK is a slightly anarchic collective of people, mostly Chinese but living all over the world. Under the leadership of Fauna (pictured), they select and translate Chinese BBS posts and comments into English. Reading their website helps makes sense of the chaos of the Chinese Internet, and the moral debates that occupy wired Chinese youth across the globe.
Danwei recently asked Fauna of ChinaSMACK some questions and she sent the questions to all the contributors. Below is an edited transcript of their replies.
Who started China Smack and why?
Which websites do you draw most of your translations from?
What do you personally consider the most interesting Chinese forum or BBS?
However, I think it is also very clear that the Chinese government cares more about the Internet now than before also and many "bad" things are deleted very fast too. Sometimes I notice that the source of a post we are working on is deleted before we are finished translating. That makes me worried that if I post it, I will attract too much attention from the government.
I only hope they do not care too much because we are just translating and most Chinese do not read English. We also try to talk only about social things and not very political things like democracy or human rights.
Chinese online culture is not only playing a role as media and as encyclopedia, but it's also a window for people to know the world, and to let the world know China. This is very important for a growing and changing country.
Big changes, hmm, basically there are a few changes, but most of them I consider as negative. It's like people don't know what to do with their newly granted right, e.g., exposure of private photos without the owner's consent, taking girls pictures on the streets and posting them on the web, etc. It's kind of an infringement of others' legal rights.
Though many online communities provide people with access to various information, people helping each other to solve problems, is kind of encouraging. But basically it seems a higher moral standard is needed.
Are you ever worried by online mob behavior (human flesh search engines etc.) on China's Internet?
Originally, I changed my gravatar ["globally recognized avatar"; explanation] for the three month anniversary of ChinaSMACK (see image above):
I PhotoShopped a picture of me so people could see me but not find out who I am, but I am shy and am not sure I will change it yet. Who I am or what I look like is not really important. I hope people will care more about the Chinese netizens.
Human flesh search engines are just a tools. It depends on who uses them. So if you are worry about the knife, I think you will be worried about that.
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