imagenative Geographies

Imaginative Geographies

Theoretical Musings

This is an adapted version of a conference presentation I gave at SUNY-Brockport in April 2008. The title of the conference was– “Reconsidering The ‘Orient” and ‘Occident’ in the 21st Century: Observing the 30th Anniversary of Edward Said’s Orientalism”

Imaginative Geographies: Some Theoretical Considerations

“The objective space of a house—its corners, corridors, cellar, rooms—is far less important than what poetically it is endowed with, which is usually a quality with an imaginative or figurative value we can name and feel; thus a house may be haunted or homelike, or prisonlike or magical. So space acquires emotional and even rational sense by a kind of poetic process, whereby the vacant or anonymous reaches of distance are converted into meaning for us here” (Orientalism, 55).


This paper aims to explore the concept of ‘imaginative geographies,’ one that Edward Said memorably introduced in the first part of Orientalism. I will…

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The Sick Man of Asia

In their single-minded pursuit of economic growth, China’s leaders have long overlooked public health — which, by some measures, is now worse than under Mao. Despite recent reforms, China’s citizens keep getting sicker, threatening the country’s health-care system, the economy at large, and even the stability of the regime.

通过The Sick Man of Asia.

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Cancer Villages in China

Dateline investigates the increase in cancer cases in rural China, which is being blamed on toxic industrial waste poisoning the water supply.

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Mass media and Celebrity in the Digital age

Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269)

Nick Goudry argued that ordinary citizen and celebrity could only be bridged through the access of mass media (Burgess and Green cited in Nick Goudry, 2009, 22). With the countless celebrities that come out from the YouTube, mass media is under redefinition through the interface of new media, as Burgess and Green added that YouTube is significantly embodied with the feature of “media world” function as a star factory (Burgess and Green, 23). For some instant, it is similar to the TV program Britain got talent, but, with millions more judgers and audiences. The new media platform of YouTube has increasingly blended into the arenas of mass media, not only by promoting the advertisements, but has also officially cooperated with the major mass media companies, such as BBC and CBS (Weber, 2007).

In this blog, Natalie Tyler Tran will be used as a case study to analysis the relationship between the YouTube celebrities and mass media. One of her recent video is embedded as to clarify the argument (YouTube, 2011a).

Tran has begun with Vlogging in YouTube since 2006 in her “community channel”, and win the most subscribed in the region of Australian (YouTube, 2011b) and the 26th most subscribed channel in worldwide (YouTube, 2011c). Her popularity in YouTube soon enhanced her mass media coverage, for instance, she has respectively appeared in Sydney Morning Herald, Western Australia Today and B&T Magazine (Tylertran, 2007).

As a result, her grown statue as a celebrity is remarkably kept within the ordinary system of mass media, which able to obtain a commercial revenue by expose and exploit the popularity of Tran. However, the success has also positioning her in a role for gate-keeping the mechanism of the mass media (Burgess and Green, 24), for instance, the advertisement board displayed in her Channel.

In addition, stressed from the mass media circulation, Tran needs to constantly update with the YouTube videos to maintain the popularity that is the key element to ensure her the media coverage. Thus, “vernacular creative” was utilized as the approach within her video to ensured the popularity (Burgess and Green, 2009, 26), for example, the adaptation of digital techniques in presenting the two Tran’s in-car conversation, and the realistic representation of the Google map. However, it has to point out that the exploitation of new media platforms such as Facebook and twitter that represented in her video has become a tool for her to resistant with the control of the mass media. Thus, if YouTube is the Entertainment Company she assigns to, rather then predominately controlled by one company, she is free to dedicated and cooperate with the others.

Through the Internet platform of YouTube, Tran is able to read the comments or video from her fans, in addition to interact with them, it can be suggested that the social network as a form of new media, has empowered its celebrity with more freedom to communicate with the fans, this kind of close encounter has enhanced the portrayal of “ordinary celebrity”, which Burgess and Green (2009,23) stated as the “demotic turn” adapted by the mass media. However, it is also a “digital turn” for the mass media in the era of Web 2.0, when Internet sharing websites are manifesto the new meanings to for the “mass media”, being the media of the masses.


Burgess, Jean & Green,  Joshua . 2009, “YouTube and The Mainstream Media” in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press. Pp-15-37

Tylertran, Natalie , 2007,”Who is Natalie Tyler Tran?” in Natalie Tylertran’s blog, accessed in 30th of May, from

Weber, Tim. 2007. “BBC strikes Google-YouTube deal” in BBC news, accessed in 30th of May, from

YouTube (2011a) “Googlemaps Breakup” in Community Channel, YouTube, accessed in 30th of May, from

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Luckily he didn’t get run over by a car!

Last year, an incident named the “Li Gang GATE” has bombed the web in China, and everyone online is talking about LiGang, and his son. Despite it not being a worldwide sensation, to some extend, it is similar to the Watergate scandal as it involved a government officer from Beijing.

The incident is regarding LiGang’s son who was involved in a drink and drive accident on the October 19th 2010 which he ran over two student pedestrians of which one of them was killed and causing another injured. Road accidents like this is commonly featured in headlines involving the second-generation rich youngsters and second-generation officer’s kids who get into accidents while driving their girlfriends to school in the case of LiGang’s son. What was so sensational about this event was because LiGang’s son was involved in a hit and run accident, driving off non-chalantly even after having to run over a pedestrian. LiGang’s son was later exposed by the victim’s classmates and threatened to press charges against him. However, LiGang’s son arrogantly replied, “sue me if you dare, my father is Li Gang!”(Key, 2010)( I don’t know if Western readers can fully comprehend the situation but to put it simply, in my opinion, I’m not trying to criticise the officers in my own country but there is so many corrupted officials who use their power to cover up for the illegal practice of their relatives or help to pull strings for their friends to get into a job with high position.) Netizens heard about the LiGang’s son incident, and blogs and new articles sprung up engaged in a “human-flesh” search on this incident. Soon, the ugly act done by LiGang’s son including all his information were exposed on the internet. “My father is LiGang” became the popular online slang for the netzens in China to complain, make fun or to mock the corruption act of government.

Check out the clip about the incident:

This incident is just a little back story to introduce my blog title. However, I would like to narrate a story of another character whom I thought he was lucky that LiGang’s son didn’t try to run him over. ‘Luckily he didn’t get run over by a car!’ The ‘he’ in my title refers to another character named Fang Binxing, nicknamed as “the father of the Great Firewall of China”. Unfortunately, during one of his lecture in the Wuhan University on the 19th of May, a pair of shoes was thrown at him (though he was only hit by one of them) by one of his students (Barnigan, 2011).

If I have never came to Australia or I have made no friends residing overseas, I might not feel the inequality exposure relative to people around the world outside of China. I wouldn’t be ranting about not being able to log into my Facebook account, or I might not even have an account since in China, there’s already the domestic website RenRen, which have the same functions as Facebook though you can’t create a page like “independent Tibet”or write a post like “I hate government”. Apart from not having the freedom to express your dissatisfaction with the Chinese government on Facebook, everything is very harmonious and happy with even more variety and high advancement of functions to choose from.

But since I’m in Australia now, and no one back in China can access my wordpress blog. I can only say: luckily, this Fang Bingxing didn’t get hit by a car driven my Ligang’s son! School term in University is coming to an end so many of my friends are asking for my hotmail address so that we could still keep in touch despite not having to be able to contact me through Facebook. It is quite frustration to have people to tell me “can’t ‘facebook’ you anymore because you can’t use Facebook in China.”

However, things are getting better as more of my foreign friends are picking up Weibo, the most trendy mini-blog (like Twitter) in China. It is quite similar to Twitter, but much more user-friendly. You don’t need to open an extra window to view the picture, you can vote (even vote for people’s representative, recently), you can insert small applications and change the theme of you own webpage, (themes are much more prettier), and all the celebrities seem to have an account in Weibo and some of them don’t even know Chinese. Weibo is gradually changing the lanscape of Chinese social network, and reaching 150 million users, within 18 month .

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Ai Wei Wei

Ai WeiWei is one of the artist who design the Olympic main stadium- Bird nest in China, and his artwork of porcelain sun flower is also made him well know in the world arts circle. However, because he is too keen to find out the truth about the exact death number during the Sichuan earthquake, he has been put into detention. Underneath is his film in TED:

In the short film, he talked about the social issue in current China, that people are not allow to speak what government don’t feels like to hear; Foreign social network like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter are blocked during the fitter of Great Firewall…

It is very brave for him to stand out to talked about the defects of our nation. However, he is quite successes on his international reputation, such as his short film in TED, and his news coverage  in The New York Time, and Xinhua News, as some people just vanished after taken by the police.

It is also very smart for him, as he know how to utilize the power of the internet, which not only has the capability make the whole world available, but able to turn up the “volume” of ordinary, and make the rest of the world to be heard.

Even now, Ai is in detention, his greatest work of social-art is still under constructing, All the people who love art, desire for a freer world, on the strength of social network, they are called upon and gather together, on this unprecedented project: Free Ai

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Fans immediacy

My friend told me that the Lady gaga, the official proved version has followed her on twitter! Jealous, I don’t know why she only added her, is that simply because my profile photo doesn’t looks like monster?

I like twitter, as it provides me with the most instant and considerably reliable information about the people I like. I known this twitter thing for some extent have become a tool for celebrities promote popularity, but because of its interactivity and engagingness, it become not only a tool for communication, but a manifesto to tell you and the celebrities you like are belonging to the same community of a social network.

The intimate practice of follow and leave comments can never be achieve from reading hardcopy magazines or newspaper, even the one you commented will never reply you, it feels like he can see. As a result Magazines and newspapers are gradually losing their dominant position of disseminating the firsthand information, as fans can timely checked the twitter states of their idols through mobile phone. The hard papered medium has defeated by the immediacy that provided by the digitalized platform, which allows fans talk directly to their idols.

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