iRights.Lab Curates a Series of Events on Dig­i­tal­iza­tion in China

There are many dif­fer­ences between China and “The West”. Is that also the case when it comes to dig­i­tal­iza­tion? What can we learn from one anoth­er? These ques­tions and more were addressed in the series of events enti­tled “Per­spec­tives on the Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion”, which the Goethe Insti­tute China and the iRights.Lab had joint­ly organ­ised.

When it comes to dig­i­tal­iza­tion, almost all coun­tries are faced with the same chal­lenges: broad­band infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment, changes in the world of work, inter­net-relat­ed crime, etc. Togeth­er with the Goethe Insti­tute China did the iRights.Lab ini­ti­ate a broad dis­cus­sion to iden­ti­fy which areas of life have been par­tic­u­lar­ly influ­enced, and what com­mon­al­i­ties and dif­fer­ences there exist between China on one hand and Ger­many or Europe on the other.

How Dig­i­tal­iza­tion Influ­ences Peo­ple

All events in the “Per­spec­tives on Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion” series took place in Bei­jing in the bustling cul­tur­al quar­ter “Dis­trict 798”. The series kicked off on 6 Novem­ber 2015 with the event “Our Dig­i­tal Per­son­al­i­ty Online”. In light of the fact that now almost every­one has a smart­phone and uses many online ser­vices, the speak­ers addressed the ques­tion of what influ­ence this new state of affairs has on our per­son­al­i­ty. Does it change our com­mu­ni­ca­tion habits? What foot­prints do we leave behind on the inter­net? Do we need com­mon rules online? The dis­cus­sion was led by Dr. Chris­t­ian Hoff­man (Insti­tute of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Media Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Leipzig), Kaiser Kuo (for­mer Direc­tor of Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Chi­nese search engine oper­a­tor Baidu), Alex Chen (co-founder and direc­tor of Cakeshop Con­sult­ing) and Felix Lee (China cor­re­spon­dent in Bei­jing for sev­er­al Ger­man pub­lish­ing hous­es).

Def­i­nite­ly Cre­ative and Inno­v­a­tive

It con­tin­ued on 12 March 2016 under the title “Inno­va­tion and Cre­ativ­i­ty in the Dig­i­tal Era”. First, Eduar­do Navas (artist, cura­tor, writer on the “remix the­o­ry”, Chair at the School of Visu­al Arts at the Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, USA) intro­duced the audi­ence to the remix cul­ture. He was fol­lowed by Dr. Till Kreutzer (a part­ner of the iRights.Law legal firm and of-coun­sel to the iRights.Lab), who explained the social uses and advan­tages of dig­i­tal cre­ativ­i­ty. Final­ly, Pro­fes­sor Hu Yong (Insti­tute for Jour­nal­ism and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Bei­jing Uni­ver­si­ty, media crit­ic and inter­net pio­neer) and Jong­soo Yoon (Direc­tor Cre­ative Com­mons Korea) spoke on the devel­op­ment of dig­i­tal cre­ativ­i­ty in China and Korea. After cre­ative con­tri­bu­tions from var­i­ous Chi­nese artists, the speak­ers dis­cussed the ques­tion of how dig­i­tal inno­va­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty are chang­ing every­day life and soci­ety.

Dig­i­tal Pol­i­cy Here and There

In order to get a bet­ter idea of how gov­ern­ments address the chal­lenges of dig­i­tal­iza­tion, the third event on 24 and 25 Sep­tem­ber 2016 dealt with the “Dig­i­tal Agen­da in Ger­many and China”. What dif­fer­ences, but also what com­mon­al­i­ties might we find? First of all, a pic­ture of the Chi­nese dig­i­tal agen­da was pro­vid­ed by Dr Zhou Peng (lead engi­neer at the Elec­tron­ic Tech­nol­o­gy Infor­ma­tion Research Insti­tute of the Min­istry for Indus­try and Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­o­gy), Pro­fes­sor Shi Shi­wei (Uni­ver­si­ty of Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness and Eco­nom­ics in Bei­jing) and Fin Hui­wen (Vice Pres­i­dent of the China Cen­tre for Infor­ma­tion Indus­try Devel­op­ment) from the per­spec­tive of think tanks, sci­ence and pol­i­tics. We then heard from Philipp Otto, Founder and Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the iRights.Lab, about the state of the dig­i­tal agen­da in Ger­many.

The final con­tri­bu­tions on Ger­man and Chi­nese focussed on Work 4.0 and Open Data and came from Dr. Max Neufeind (pol­i­cy advi­sor to the Ger­man Fed­er­al Min­istry for Work and Soci­ety) and Pro­fes­sor Jack Qiu (School of Jour­nal­ism and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the Chi­nese Uni­ver­si­ty of Hong Kong) as well as Julia Kloiber (Project Leader for the Open Knowl­edge Foun­da­tion) and Pro­fes­sor Zheng Lei (School of Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions and Pub­lic Affairs, Fudan Uni­ver­si­ty).

The sec­ond day opened with the film “iPhone China”, fol­lowed by a thor­ough­go­ing dis­cus­sion in the pres­ence of the film-maker Chris­t­ian von Bor­ries. The movie con­fronts view­ers with the ques­tion: “if Apple were a coun­try, would you pre­fer to live in Apple or China?”

With Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence towards a Dig­i­tal Future?

The clos­ing event in the series, on 11 March 2017, dealt with the topic of “Our Dig­i­tal Future – How Do We Want to Live?” After Dr. San­dra Wachter (Post­doc­tor­al Researcher at the Oxford Inter­net Insti­tute) had taken the guests on a jour­ney into an eth­i­cal­ly-desir­able future, Pro­fes­sor Jie Yin (Dong­nan Uni­ver­si­ty, Nan­jing) addressed the influ­ence of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence in our lives. They were fol­lowed by Pro­fes­sor Sun Fuchun (Tsinghua Uni­ver­si­ty, Bei­jing), who pre­sent­ed the state of devel­op­ments in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence in China. After remarks on the out­look for our dig­i­tal future from Julia Manske (Project Man­ag­er at the Neue Ver­ant­wor­tung Foun­da­tion in Berlin) and fur­ther inputs from prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence, the speak­ers gath­ered for the final panel dis­cus­sion.

Inter­na­tion­al Co-Oper­a­tion is Deci­sive

The “Per­spec­tives on the Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion” event series was a proof to our ded­i­ca­tion to think­ing out­side the box. The par­tic­i­pants were not the only ones to enjoy the inter­est­ing insights and learn new things – we did, too. That’s why the iRights.Lab believes that work­ing close­ly with our glob­al part­ners will only make us stronger.

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